Chaos reigns in health cuts shambles
Controversial 26-County Health Minister James Reilly was shamed into a U-turn on cuts to personal assistant services for the disabled after disabled people and their carers gathered in protest -- but he quickly seized funds which had been earmarked for the mentally ill.
Dr Reilly said he would seek cuts in the Health Service Executive’s travel and subsistence costs instead of cutting assistance for the disabled. While the reversal was welcomed, this immediately raised questions as to how many more cuts could be saved by properly tackling the wasteful culture of perks and privilege in the HSE. He later indicated that savings would be made by withdrawing mental health and primary care services.
The climbdown came after a storm of protests on Tuesday over the decision to target personal assistant hours as part of health cuts totalling 130 million euro.
A group of 25 people with disabilities launched their demo following the announcement of the cuts, camping out overnight until the cutbacks were unequivocally reversed.
Thalidomide survivor Leigh Gath told how she receives 11 hours of vital personal assistance. She was joined in the protest by Winifred McKay and Aaron Abbey.
Leigh revealed her assistance hours had already been slashed and pleaded with the government not to introduce further cuts.
Opposition politicians said the U-turn revealed the extend of government incompetence and showed the Fine Gael/Labour coalition was cracking.
Sinn Féin Health spokesman Caoimhghin O Caolain TD said: “The reversal of the threatened cuts to personal assistance services for the disabled is welcome.
“But such cuts should never have been contemplated in the first place. This climbdown in the space of less than a week highlights the chaotic management of the health services under Health Minister Reilly and his Fine Gael/Labour Coalition colleagues.”
And he called for the whole 130 million health cuts package to be reversed.
But instead it was announced that over 50 million euro allocated in 2012 for the development of mental health and primary care services was being withdrawn.
Mr O Caolain said the government is “moving backwards and damaging public healthcare”.
“What of the funding for primary care and the government’s strategy of developing primary care as the best way of taking pressure of our acute hospitals? This government’s health strategy is in tatters,” he said.