Harney: Government to seek €1 billion cuts in health
By Gordon Deegan - Saturday, November 14, 2009 – Irish Examiner
HEALTH Minister Mary Harney confirmed yesterday her department will be making cuts of over €1 billion in the forthcoming budget.
Speaking at the Resus International Resuscitation Conference in Bunratty, Co Clare yesterday, Ms Harney also admitted to Government failings in managing the economy including the benchmarking pay increases to public servants.
Addressing over 350 delegates without a script, Ms Harney said €800 million in cuts would be needed and that doesn’t take into account the additional spend of €300m to €400m required every year in response to demographic pressures such as increased medical cards and increased numbers of elderly patients.
She said: "Even standing still, you need to find €300m to €400m extra every year just to do the same you did the previous year."
She said as a result the Government is looking at making cuts "of more than €1bn" in health for 2010.
She told delegates: "It is not going to be easy to find that kind of money, I want to be honest with you – it ain’t going to be easy."
Ms Harney said: "I have had hours and hours and hours of meetings on this over the last six weeks. Three hours of meetings yesterday, more this afternoon and more on Saturday and more on Sunday trying to find the most sensible and fairest way to identify that money."
At the country’s biggest emergency medicine conference, Ms Harney added: "Above all else to try to ensure that we maintain services to the patient, both in the community and in the hospital. If we are to do that, then all of us have to work smarter and differently. We have all got to work together in finding that solution."
Ms Harney said: "There is nothing we are not examining."
She pointed out that "workers in the public sector have guaranteed employment. That is something which is the envy of many people, not just in Ireland, but all over the world".
She confirmed that the Department of Health is looking at many of the recommendations of the McCarthy report and considering areas such as increasing the cost of drugs and, in order that hospitals should cut costs, increasing day care activity and shorter patient stays.
She said that the spend on health this year will account for 27% of the Government’s total spend.
She said: "If the Government has to raise €4bn by way of public sector expenditure cuts, clearly that is going to impact on a department like the Department of Health, which spends such a large percentage of public money."
Ireland has had government controlled health care better known as “socialized medicine” for years. In that time the Irish people have become accustomed to their health care needs being provided, for the most part, free of charge to the patient. This is not to imply that the cost wasn’t borne by somebody. That somebody was the Irish taxpayer. Is this scenario beginning to sound familiar? Does “Obamacare” begin to come to mind and does the same fate await us down the road if it is passed by the U.S. Congress? I certainly hope not.