Fianna Fáil Health Spokesperson, Billy Kelleher TD has said that Minister Harris and the Director General of the HSE, Tony O’Brien need to be working off the same set of figures and assumptions for the public health service in 2018.

Deputy Kelleher was commenting after media reports suggested that there is a potential €881 million gap in the HSE budget for 2018.

“The Department of Health can spin the line that this is solely the gap between what the HSE requested and what the HSE was awarded in Budget 2018, but the fact remains there are clear budgetary measures which have not been accounted for.

“Take income from private patients – a €51 million assumption that may not come to pass. There is also the overrun from 2017, a full €174 million that needs to be paid for out of the 2018 budget allocation.

“It beggars belief that just 22 days into the new financial year, there is such a chasm between what the HSE thinks it needs to spend to maintain existing service levels and what the Government has committed to provide.

“I foresee major challenges later this year in terms of non- acute, but critically important services, such as home help hours, home care packages and in dealing with the already unforgivable waiting lists in many medically specialties.

“Minister Harris, and indeed the Government, likes to step back and present themselves as mere observers in the delivery of health care in this country. He forgets that he, as Minister for Health, is responsible both to the Oireachtas and ultimately to the people of Ireland, for the delivery of health services in this country.

“Our health service is already failing its citizens, not because of any lack of commitment or hard work on the part of its nurses, doctors, administrators and specialists, but because the government and the HSE are failing to work together to deliver the best possible services at the most efficient cost,” concluded Kelleher.