Budget reveals scale of health cuts

Savings are expected to be made through demand led schemes like DTSS

The restrictions imposed on the Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS) will remain unchanged this year following the Government’s December budget.

Finance Minister Brian Lenihan announced that the overall health budget for 2011 will be €14.1 billion, a reduction of €727 million on last year. Of that reduction about €380m is expected to be found through savings on demand led schemes such as the DTSS.

Health Minister Mary Harney, speaking after the announcement, said: “The health service must, of necessity, contribute to the expenditure reductions required in 2011. My objective has been to ensure that these reductions are achieved in a way that minimise the impact on services to patients and continue to protect the most vulnerable. To do this we need to reduce costs and improve productivity.”

The minister had previously indicated that the redeployment of services would be crucial during 2011 and beyond if services to the public are to be maintained. However, the government has again come under attack for its handling of the cuts, with unions leading the criticism.

The Services, Industrial, Professional and Technical Union’s acting national health organiser Paul Bell said: “Past experience shows that the axe wielded by the Minister for Health and Children Mary Harney, and the HSE is too blunt to ensure savings are not at the expense of services being delivered directly to the public.”

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation have again called for a crisis summit on health services and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) has reiterated its call for the time period to reduce the deficit to be extended.

Dave Begg, general secretary of the ICTU, told RTÉ News that reducing the deficit to 3 per cent by 2014 cannot be achieved without causing “permanent damage to the fabric of society”.

He continued: “We simply can’t manage to do this over a four-year period. Fiscal retrenchment on its own can’t be achieved purely through austerity. You need to have some growth in the system.

“We have to get the fiscal situation in order but we need to do it over a period of time which doesn’t prevent growth from taking hold and giving us a boost.”