Government at odds over 'discrepancies' in health spending

With three weeks to Budget 2022, there is no agreement on the amount of money required to address looming crises for the health service, particularly spiralling hospital waiting lists.
Government at odds over 'discrepancies' in health spending

Digital Desk Staff

Tensions have mounted within Government over Department of Health spending figures ahead of the budget amid lengthening hospital waiting lists and overcrowding, according to the Irish Examiner reports.

With three weeks to Budget 2022, there is no agreement on the amount of money required to address looming crises for the health service, particularly spiralling hospital waiting lists — which top 907,000 patients — and the formulation of a winter plan to address an expected surge in demand for services.

There is also concern that the Department of Health and the HSE have “fallen way behind” in the recruitment of staff that would allow health service improvements and reforms to proceed.

Repeated attempts have been made by Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath’s department to get accurate spending figures from the Department of Health and Minister Stephen Donnelly ahead of next month's budget.

Mr McGrath and his officials have requested details of budget underspends within the Department of Health but have yet to get satisfactory answers.

Sources have told the Irish Examiner that, officially, the Department of Health is reporting a budget underspend, but Mr Donnelly’s officials believe the true position is one of “break even”.

Mr McGrath and his officials are understood to have repeatedly sought clarity, over several months, as to why such discrepancies — amounting to €700 million — exist when accurate figures are required to allocate budgets for 2022.

“It’s hard to have confidence in their numbers at the moment,” said a senior source.

It is understood that the €4 billion extra given to health last year — €2 billion linked to Covid-19 — will be reduced, but there is an ambition to maintain the budget for the Sláintecare reform programme, which amounts to €1.25 billion.

Sláintecare, the blueprint for reforming the health service by moving treatments and services into the community, has stalled in recent times, leading to the resignation of senior figures over the last fortnight.

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