Budget 2021 did not allocate sufficient resources to our ICUs or invest adequately in Sláintecare

Commenting, Roisin Shortall TD, co-leader and spokesperson on Health said:

“The investment in ICUs flowing from Budget 2021 will fall far short of what is required. While capital expenditure in additional beds is welcome, there is a shortfall of around 250 critical care beds in the system. The budget allows for 66 new such beds. This represents a clear lack of ambition and will disappoint people who would have hoped that the budget would address the situation.

“The headline health figure in Budget 2021 masks the fact that much of the additional health spending next year will be for Covid-19 measures, including the test and trace system and PPE. New demands on service delivery, infection prevention and control, and social distancing has put extreme pressure on a system that was already operating over-capacity.

“Access to healthcare should not depend on what’s in your pocket. There is nothing in Budget 2021 to address the costs of access to healthcare – including free GP care, extension of medical card availability or reduced costs of medicines.

“The severe impact of Covid-19 on the nation’s mental health and wellbeing cannot be overstated. The surge in referrals has put new demands on chronically underfunded services with already far too long waiting lists. It is very regrettable that the Government have provided less than half of the €80m needed and services will continue to be overwhelmed.

“The Government has signed up to Sláintecare, and so it’s disappointing to see the slow progress in its implementation.  The great bulk of the health spending announced in the budget is Covid-19 related.

“The Sláintecare plan to reform our health service was published in 2017. It should now be in its fourth year of reform, but instead it has never received proper Government backing and funding to implement the plan. You can’t help but ask whether our health service would have been better equipped to deal with Covid-19 if the Sláintecare action plan had been implemented and funded from the start.

“There is no sign of the introduction of the sorts of fundamental reforms required in the provision of health services.  There is nothing in the budget about the additional GPs, nurses, therapists required to support what was announced as a shift from acute hospitals to community care.

“We have to give people hope that coming out of the pandemic we will have a proper health service; hope that we can learn from decades of underinvestment and provide the kind of health and public health and social care service that provides timely access based on need, not ability to pay. The Government, despite additional funding, have again missed a crucial opportunity in Budget 2021.”

13th October 2021

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