Belfast Telegraph

HSE deficit 281m euro in July, chief executive says

Paul Reid told a committee there were different factors behind the statistic.

Beds in a hospital in Dublin (Julien Behal/AP)
Beds in a hospital in Dublin (Julien Behal/AP)

By Aoife Moore, PA

The Irish health system ran a 281 million euro deficit this year, an Oireachtas committee has heard.

The new figures show that the Health Service Executive (HSE) deficit was 281m at the end of July, against their overall budget of over 16 billion euro.

HSE chief executive officer Paul Reid told the Oireachtas health committee on Wednesday that the driving factors for the overrun include emergency care in acute hospitals, demand-led services, the growing population of older and frailer patients and other issues.

“Demand is increasing due to an ageing demographic, more complex service demands and on-going societal and economic change,” he said.

“The latest reported financial position, as at July 2019, shows a deficit of 281m with 43% of that within our operational service areas, and 57% within pensions and other demand led areas.

“The greatest cost pressures within our operational services are in respect of providing residential placements to service users with an intellectual disability, and the provision of specialist emergency care, within the acute hospital setting, to a growing population of older and frailer patients.

“I have stated previously that this is a very challenging process. ”

The deficit figure for the same period last year was 485m euro.

Mr Reid said he has told senior health managers to identify measures to limit spending and overruns, including measures to limiting agency staff, overtime and staffing levels.

The deficit announcement comes amid ongoing public outrage over hospital overcrowding and understaffing.

Appearing before the committee along with Mr Reid, was Health Minister Simon Harris, who came under significant criticism from Labour’s Alan Kelly and Fianna Fail’s Stephen Donnelly over waiting times and trolley numbers.

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Minister for Health Simon Harris (Niall Carson/PA)

Minister Harris defended the overrun by saying: “We make decisions as an Oireachtas outside of budget time, this year we decided we needed to sort out the nurses dispute, the Siptu dispute, and concentrate more on Brexit and Cervical Check, budget day is a moment in time, but decisions taken after have a significant impact.

“There is an issue over better data for health to help us engage in budget process.”

Mr Reid added the organisation is “bringing through” an investment plan for a new integrated financial management system, improved financial controls and greater clarity on what individual hospitals can control and reduce service pressures.

Fine Gael’s Bernard Durkan told both men that the overrun does not sit well with the public.

“This isn’t good for morale, if we fall short of the target, that doesn’t wash with the general public and internal staff and it frustrates them,” he said.

“I would’ve thought at the beginning of the year when estimates are drawn up, various knowns or unknowns are brought into play and calculations are done.”

PA

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