Press Release

Statement by the Minister for Health and Children following Supplementary Budget, 7th April 2009

The Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney, T.D. has today said that “revised ways of working, flexibility and innovation will be essential within the health services in order for patients to receive the continued provision of service levels they expect.”

Speaking following the announcement of the Supplementary Budget, Minister Harney said, “My main aim in the next period is to sustain services to patients and to match key health priorities with available funding.”

The Minister confirmed that the HSE is facing a very difficult challenge in delivering its Service Plan within its approved allocation. She said she would be making decisions on the Service Plan within the next two weeks in relation to adjustments needed.

Since the Service Plan was approved by the Minister in December, considerable work has been done to assess the financial pressure facing the HSE.

However, the Minister said measures associated with today’s Budget will make a significant contribution to addressing these pressures.

In effect, after the Minister approved the Service Plan in December, additional budget pressures amounting to €540m have arisen. As of today, including the effect of Budget decisions, this financial challenge is approximately €147m (see table below).

In short,

  • €160m has been made available in respect of the shortfall in health levy receipts
  • it has been agreed the Minister may seek a Supplementary Estimate later in the year, if needed, to fund additional medical cards;
  • there will be no increases in statutory charges this year for A&E, private beds in public hospitals, in-patient beds in public hospitals, other payments made by service users; or in the Drugs Payment Scheme threshold;
  • a HSE budget saving of €60m from the cost of pay awards and the amount provided for demographic service pressures (the details of which will be addressed in Service Plan decisions)
  • a reduction of €20m has been made in the 2009 health capital provision. This reduction is being applied to the existing HSE provision for building and construction of €390m and the provision for ICT of €30m. It will require a revision to the draft HSE Capital Plan.
  • payments under the new consultants’ contract will be addressed as part of Minister’s decision on the HSE Service Plan.

The HSE will also have to achieve further savings on foot of the recent Government decision in relation to a moratorium on public service employment and the voluntary early retirement arrangements.

However, the Minister reiterated that this moratorium does not apply to consultant posts, emergency medical technicians (in ambulance services) and a range of therapist and other posts (speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, clinical psychologists, behavioural therapists, counsellors, social workers).

Acknowledging the difficult task facing the HSE, the Minister called for cooperation and support in the interests of ensuring resources are used to best effect in meeting the health and social care needs of the public. The Minister said that the existing economic and budgetary situation makes it more, not less, important to continue to press ahead with the various reform initiatives that are already underway across all services.

Measures to offset HSE €540m post Service Plan financial pressures
1. Measures already implemented by HSE, not affecting services 133m
2. Additional health levy contribution funding 160m
3. Medical cards supplementary estimate* (if necessary) 100m
Remaining pressures to be addressed €147m

* projections of the impact of unemployment levels on medical card numbers are difficult to determine precisely in advance and thus require to be kept under review.