FINE Gael Cork North Central Senator, Colm Burke, has said significant challenges lie ahead in terms of staffing and budgetary constraints where the healthcare sector is concerned but that the Government is intent on meeting these challenges head on.
“In 2011, the total healthcare spend amounted to €13.4 billion. This was greater than the total amount collected in income tax the same year, which amounted to €13.3 billion. The healthcare budget for 2012 is €13.3 billion; an indication that Government is serious about maintaining services despite current budgetary constraints.
“The Department of Health faces serious budgetary challenges in the years ahead which the Minister intends to meet through a radical restructuring of the healthcare system and the ultimate aim of introducing universal health insurance for all.
“The most demanding health care sectors in 2011 included; the primary care (medical card services) scheme (€2.4 billion), the National Hospitals Office (€5.2 billion), older people (€1.6billion) and persons with disabilities (€1.3 billion). The HSE is currently in the process of finalising detailed service plans at regional level and which will take account of the effect of the reduction in both staff numbers and budgets, as well as the service areas identified for priority development under the National Service Plan.
“The Service Plan for 2012 provides for the recruitment of 400 staff for mental health services on foot of the additional €35m expenditure. The replacement of some staff in primary care will offset the impact of staff losses and, in some very limited exceptions, to the on-going recruitment embargo. There is also a firm commitment to reduce the employment of agency staff in 2012 by up to 50%.
“If we are to maintain services, it is essential that we get value for money at every level of our health system. The Minister’s approach will ensure that every cent of the healthcare budget is spent in the best possible way and that our healthcare system delivers for all citizens.”