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Speaking exclusively to the <strong><em>Medical Independent</em></strong> at the launch of the HSE Service Plan 2016, Mr Liam Woods said that there are a number of saving measures that can help address the shortfall.
“Some of those are about collecting income faster, and billing everywhere it is appropriate and some of them are about managing pay costs and managing growth in the costs for new technologies,” according to Mr Woods.
“They will be the main focus. So it will be about managing our pay. Our biggest growth factors in 2015 have been in clinical non-pay, which has been quite big. Our income has grown quite a bit so we have had a surplus in income, that helps off-set some deficit in gross expenditure. If that persisted into 2016 that would also help.”
According to the 2016 Service Plan, expected cost growths and initial cost saving measures in the acute hospital sector leaves a preliminary funding shortfall of €150 million to be addressed.
An interim cash management-based solution to the €50 million historic accelerated income collection target is proposed, which reduces this funding shortfall on a once-off basis to approximately €100 million.
This is put forward on the basis that a feasible permanent solution to this €50 million issue can be agreed between the HSE and Department of Health during 2016, in time to be implemented in 2017.
IHCA President Gerard Crotty said that confirmation of a €100 million shortfall in acute hospital funding combined with a substantial consultant recruitment crisis means that the health service will be unable to cater for the anticipated demand next year.
Other major elements of the Plan include:
<ul> <li>€817 million (6.7 per cent) overall increase in funding</li> <li>€100m (0.8 per cent) increase in funding above 2015 cost of existing services with a consequent significant financial challenge to be managed within the 2016 plan</li> <li>€13.5 million funding for expansion of universal GP care</li> <li>Up to €10 million for health service reform </li> <li>€20 million for elderly home-care and transitional care services. </li> </ul>
The total budget for the HSE for 2016 is €12.987 billion.
At the Service Plan launch, Director General of the HSE Mr Tony O’Brien stressed that it was especially important that the HSE remain in budget during the year as a result of new EU financial regulations, which prevent the provision of a supplementary budget.
“Everyone in the health service that has budgetary authority, a role and ability to spend money must understand that in 2016 the money that is spent must be the money that is provided, not the money that we wish was provided in our individual budgets,” according to Mr O’Brien.
In the event that the budget is predicted to be exceeded, Minister for Health Leo Varadkar said services would not be cut, but new services may be deferred.
Additional income might also be used from savings achieved in other Government Departments, or a charge might be applied on next year’s budget, according to the Minister.
Mr O’Brien also said that there would be no change to medical cards eligibility following reports that the HSE predicts that the number of medical cards provided in 2016 will decrease.
Reacting to the Service Plan, IMO President Dr Ray Walley highlighted the issue of medical cards, describing it as “farcical”.
“The farcical swapping and changing around medical card numbers for next year is not only insulting to medical card patients but highlights the chaotic manner in which this service plan is being announced and there must be a real concern now that we will see more efforts to cull medical card numbers by stealth next year as this government previously tried to do,” according to Dr Walley.
Also, the 2016 plan lacks any real cohesive planning with minimal money once again allocated to primary care, according to the NAGP.
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