By Caoimhe Looney
Deputy David Cullinane brought a motion forward about the Government underfunding the Health Service in Budget 2024 on Tuesday 24 October to the Dáil.
His motion referred to comments made by the Chief Executive Officer of the Health Service Executive (HSE) stating that there will likely be a Health Service income and expenditure deficit of “somewhere in the region of about €1.4 billion or €1.5 billion” in 2023.
He has called on the Government to increase the funding allocation for the Department of Health for 2024 to cover existing levels of service and cost pressures and provide for new developments funding to advance vital projects in healthcare.
Sean Canney TD said “We need to be responsible, mature and cognisant of the fact older people and others who are waiting for services such as operations have been on waiting lists for two or two and a half years. They will be waiting for operations and other services and all they are hearing about is whether there is enough money in the budget.”
Canney then made reference to the opening of €30 million worth of infrastructure in his constituency of Galway East.
Canney said “We have the infrastructure, but we need to get more staff and make sure everything is working properly. We need the X-ray facility that has been long promised for Tuam. It was financed by the then Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, in 2017, and still it has not been delivered.
“We probably have €1.5 billion worth of investment to put into University Hospital Galway and we need to do it. We have the plans to do it, we have Government support to do it, but we need to put a plan in place to deliver it.
Catherine Connolly TD also made remarks about the waiting times in hospitals, saying “the hospital in Galway has 44 patients on trolleys, 36 in the accident and emergency department and eight hidden away on wards.”
Connolly also referenced past claims of a new hospital in Galway being built in Merlin Park, which was later changed, and it was decided to keep building on the site of the regional hospital.
Connolly said “The former Minister for Health, who is now the Taoiseach, said in 2014 that a new building was the only solution to the problems in UHG. It is 2023 and we are still waiting, not for a new hospital because that has gone off the agenda … but rather a new accident and emergency department.
“I welcome some of the progress that has been made on Sláintecare. However, it is an obscenity to have people on trolleys. The average times in Galway are one, two, three or four days.”
She was also very critical of the funding of private hospitals and made claims that “we are privatising the primary care system.”
Minister of State at the Department of Health Deputy Hildegarde Naughton defended the health budget for 2024 stating that it “is the biggest ever and will facilitate the continued delivery of quality affordable healthcare services.”
Naughton spoke about resources in place to hire 2,000 additional staff for vital service providers, and provisions that have been made for the opening and staffing of six new surgical hubs across the country, including in Galway.
There is also set to be an additional €2.3 million will be allocated to the Healthy Ireland fund in 2024, bringing the total to €16.5 million for this initiative.
The development of a new national sexual health strategy is set to continue, and the budget for free home sexually transmitted infection testing kits will increase by €700,000.
Core funding for drug and alcohol task forces and section 39 organisations has also increased.