Fianna Fáil Health Spokesperson, Billy Kelleher has said that the needs of Irish people are clearly not being met on a daily basis by the health service, and that Minister Harris must stop obfuscating and accept that it will be next to impossible to meet existing commitments based on Budget 2018 allocations.

Deputy Kelleher was commenting after it emerged that the Minister for Health has reprimanded the HSE Director General over his comments surrounding clear gaps between budgetary allocations and financial requirements to deliver the 2018 Service Plan.

“The Taoiseach and the Minister for Health are attempting to use deceptive financial slights of hands to hide the clear gaps in funding for the public health service.

“The HSE 2018 budget level represents an overall increase of €413m (2.9%) on the final 2017 budget. The HSE also says there is a financial challenge within the operational service areas of approximately €346m where they have to deliver savings.

“That financial challenge amounts to 84% of the 2018 increase. I have very real concerns that the proposed service improvements cannot be delivered under these circumstances.

“Looking at the overall budget, way too much of the 2018 budget for the HSE is based on achieving value for money savings in the region of €346 million.

“The HSE has, over the past six to seven years gone through a signification period of fat cutting. The idea that nearly 2.5% of the 2018 budget is based on value for money savings just doesn’t stack up to me.

“What’s obvious now is that the HSE senior management are not confident that such savings can be realised and are now rightly highlighting that the budgetary process for the health service has been totally inadequate for the past number of years.

“There is, I believe, questions to be asked about the entire 2018 HSE Service Plan and its financial sustainability.

“Unacceptably, this information is only being released through Freedom of Information requests to journalists.

“Minister Harris needs to be honest with himself, the HSE, the Oireachtas and ultimately, the people of Ireland about what the HSE has the capacity to deliver in 2018,” concluded Kelleher.