As the Minister for Health takes delivery of the HSE’s plan to cut €666 million from the health budget, Fianna Fáil’s Health Spokesperson Billy Kelleher has called on the Minister to make an early statement on the plan and give assurances on basic levels of safety and patient care.

Deputy Kelleher commented, “There is widespread apprehension around the country about the service cuts that are coming and the effect this will have on basic patient safety and care.  These fears were well expressed in correspondence from the Chief Executives of some of the country’s largest hospitals.

“To date, all we have seen from the Government has been bare faced denial of the reality on the ground for thousands of families who are already seeing the damage of a change in policy towards discretionary medical cards, and a disingenuous attempt to distract attention from the cuts with a debate about top-ups for senior executives.

“So far, and despite the fact that the service plan has already been delayed by three weeks, we have had no indication from the Minister or anyone else in Government what basic levels of service are going to be protected and what compromises they are not prepared to make.

“The pattern of denying the reality of health services in 2013 cannot be allowed to continue.  For example, despite what the Taoiseach and his Health Minister says about there being no change of policy, figures clearly show that 10,400 people with serious illnesses and disabilities have lost their medical cards this year.  This is before the Government even embarks on the new cull of medical cards announced in Budget 2014.  Similarly, last week alone, there were more than 1,000 patients waiting on trolleys in hospitals around the country.

“In its response to this service plan, the Government needs to change the habit of its life to date, worry less about the PR management of the exercise and move quickly to confirm basic levels of care and safety, to include a row-back of its wretched policy on removing discretionary medical cards from the very sickest people.”