Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health David Cullinane TD has backed calls from the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council for updated and realistic costings to deliver universal healthcare as envisaged in the Sláintecare report.
Teachta Cullinane said that financial planning from the Government on implementation of universal healthcare was sorely lacking, citing a major deficiency in costing and modelling for universal GP care and major capital projects.
He called for multi-year certainty in funding for capital planning and proactive workforce planning to train and retain enough doctors and nurses for ending the two-tier system and delivering free GP care.
Teachta Cullinane said:
“The Irish Fiscal Advisory Council is right to warn that planning and costing for universal healthcare needs to be seriously improved.
“I have met with many hospital managers across the State in the last few months while visiting hospitals, and they have all said that cost overruns, funding uncertainty, and arduous approvals processes are holding up vital bed expansion projects.
“Three major initiatives are necessary to restore confidence in Sláintecare, cut through bureaucracy, and deliver the universal healthcare ambition which all parties signed up to.
“We need multi-annual budgeting, particularly in capital projects and training, to give certainty and speed up capital projects to deliver more beds and theatre space.
“Secondly, we need to see updated costs which reflect the reality of today, and realistic forecasts based on inflation and demographic change on costs into the future.
“As well as capital projects, this also relates to the cost of proactive workforce planning to deliver safe staffing levels, increase training, improve retention, and deliver on universal GP care.
“The health service must be properly funded to deliver the right care in the right place at the right time, on the basis of need and not ability to pay.
“Last, but not least, we need to see urgent progress on upgrading the HSE’s IT and eHealth systems, in particular financial management and reporting, to deliver transparency in expenditure and in financial and demographic planning.
“IT systems are also woefully inadequate across waiting lists, referral systems, pharmacy systems, and HR systems. You cannot get good data on vacancies, overtime, agency staff, and so on because it is not properly collated.
“We are among the highest spenders in the world on healthcare, yet we have some of the lowest capacity rates – particularly in ICU and critical care. This simply is not good enough.
“Constant spend overruns combined with a lack of transparency is very harmful to public trust and the ability of hospitals to plan for need into the future.
“This must change, and it starts with honest and realistic costings, but the work has simply not been done to date by Government.”