Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Health Billy Kelleher TD has said that the next Dáil should agree to multi annual health budgeting and a 5 year HSE Service Plan to be brought forward for 2017-2022.
Deputy Kelleher said, “A key area for reform in the new Dáil must be how we set health budgets. The existing situation cannot continue. For the past five years we have had spurious budget figures presented to the Dáil on Budget Day.
“The most spectacular of these was Budget 2014 with its €666 million cuts and the €113 million medical card ‘probity’ measures. These figures were presented on budget day and abandoned just two months later.
“Budget 2016 also showed that the bad habits remain. Just before Christmas, Minister for Health Leo Varadkar took a HSE Service Plan to cabinet which had a projection for 125,000 fewer medical cards this year relative to 2015. The cabinet didn’t like it so the figure was changed to 50,000 – a change of €75 million. That’s how health budgets have been constructed under the outgoing government.
“We need greater transparency and greater consultation in advance. Last summer, the Director General of the HSE made a detailed financial submission to the Department of Health for the funding required for our health services. However this was never discussed in the Oireachtas prior to the October budget. Instead the document was leaked to the media and rejected during a doorstep interview by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin.
“So what I suggest is this. Prior to the next Budget, and well in advance of the summer recess, the Oireachtas Health Committee should have extensive hearings and discussions with the Department of Health and the HSE to see what is required to meet the demographic demands and current unmet needs of the health service. All areas of proposed expenditure must be fully examined and scrutinised.
“In particular, the HSE should be invited to make a submission to the Oireachtas Health Committee, similar to what went to the Department of Health last August, so that health expenditure requirements can be extensively debated and analysed in advance of the October budget.
“The next budget would then outline expenditure plans for five years with the HSE publishing a five year service plan for 2017-2022,” said Deputy Kelleher.