Irish Republican News · August 31, 2012
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
‘Savage’ new health cutbacks


A new round of health cuts to home help and services for high-dependency patients in the 26 Counties has provoked a furious reaction from groups working with older people and the disabled. It has also seen fresh signs of disagreement between the government coalition parties.

The strength of the reaction appeared to take the Dublin government by surprise and has caused some upheaval among grassroots Labour supporters.

Some 600,000 home-help hours are being cut, the second time this service has been cut this year, while 10 million euro is to be cut from assistance for the disabled. Two hundred monthly home care packages are also to be cut.

Medicines such as glucosamine, anti-obesity drug Orlistat and Omega-3-Triglycerides, which help manage cholesterol, are to be withdrawn from patients on the state medical card system, while new hospital cutbacks remain in the works.

The cuts were being taken in order to comply with a directive from the ‘troika’ of foreign lenders, Minister for Health James Reilly admitted.

His statement aims to deal with a 260 million euro deficit in the health services, but it controversially contained no plan to reduce the millionaire salaries of health service administrators or medics, or to reduce waste within the hugely bureaucratic Health Service Executive.

Sinn Féin’s Caoimhghin O Caolain described the HSE cuts as “savage” and targeting the most vulnerable in society.

“These cuts represent an attack on vulnerable older people and others who require care in their homes, and on the disabled. It must be remembered that existing home help, home care and personal assistant services are insufficient to meet the need that is out there, yet now they are to be further reduced,” the party’s health spokesman said.

“It is very clear now that the Fine Gael/Labour Government puts the diktats of the troika before the old and the sick and people with disabilities in Irish society,” Mr O Caolain said in a statement.

A senior Labour official warned that the government risked a re-run of the 2008 revolt by older people, which forced an embarrassing u-turn by the previous government.

Labour Party chairman and Galway East TD Colm Keaveney said he was “very uncomfortable” with the cuts affecting older people and the disabled.

“In the context of political stability, this can’t happen again. If I were minister instead of James Reilly, I’d be tackling consultant salaries and drug costs instead of the areas of greatest dependency.”

In a bold statement, the SIPTU trade union said its members working as home helps “will not stand idly by and allow this attack on the sick and vulnerable to proceed”.

Groups working with older people also sharply criticised the cuts. The Irish Senior Citizens’ Parliament said they could prove “the straw that broke the camel’s back” for many families coping with caring in the home.

Older and Bolder described them as “tantamount to turning off the life support machine on services which were already thinly spread”. Home help services have already been cut by 500,000 hours earlier this year.

Age Action, which also supports older people, said the cuts will inevitably mean many people desperately in need of care will either be unable to access services or will have their already overstretched services reduced even further.

Inclusion Ireland strongly criticised the 10 million euro cut to personal assistant hours for the disabled.

“Cuts in the area of home help and personal assistants will further push people with disabilities back into their own homes and away from their communities. These cuts will directly impact on the quality of life of many people with a disability,” it added.

Dr Reilly, who was accused by Fianna Fail of going into hiding, said in a statement that he would announce other savings to deal with the deficit next week. These are expected to include hospital bed and theatre closures, particularly at weekends.

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© 2012 Irish Republican News