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Senator David Cullinane

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Order of Business
Snippet Contents:

The Health Service Executive national service plan has been published. While next year's cuts have been reduced slightly from €666 million to €619 million, we can safely state that the HSE and hospital managers will find it very difficult and highly challenging to implement them. I am astonished that the service plan makes provision for a reduction of €294 million in expenditure on primary health care given that the Minister of State with responsibility for primary health care stated in this Chamber only weeks ago that greater investment in primary health care is needed. She also stated that primary health care was the focus of the Government. One of the core and continuing election pledges of the parties in government was to make free general practitioner care available to all by the end of the next Government term, presuming this Government will be re-elected. How does this commitment sit with the decision to reduce expenditure on primary health care by €294 million?
The health service plan states that expenditure on health care has been reduced by €3.3 billion since 2008 and this figure is set to rise to €4 billion by the end of 2014. Under the plan, the number of whole-time equivalent posts in the health service will also fall by 2,600 next year, having been cut by 12,500 posts since 2007. How, in God's name, can hospitals and the health service continue to function and provide the services people need with almost 13,500 fewer staff and €4 billion less in funding? This is the reason wards and theatres are closing and hospitals are under pressure.
The HSE will find it very difficult to implement its national service plan. The proposed adjustment in expenditure on medical cards has been rolled back already, which is a welcome decision. Sinn Féin stated it was not possible to implement the proposed level of cuts in the medical cards system.
I seek a debate on the HSE national service plan at the earliest possible date. Senators signalled that the plan should not be published at the end of the session as Christmas approaches because it is one of the most important annual plans published by the Government. The Seanad and Dáil must have an opportunity to properly scrutinise each and every saving or cut that is proposed. I call for a debate on the service plan to be scheduled as soon as possible.