Jus’ like that the Government has plucked money, apparently from thin air, and announced that it is to provide free GP care to those under five years of age.
The move, announced in advance of Budget 2014 yesterday, is expected to cost €40 million next year and provide free care at the point of access for parents.
While good news for those parents struggling to make ends meet, it will come as something of a surprise to both Health Service Executive officials, medics, care providers and clients in the wake of recent events and revelations.
The Health Services Executive at last count is €374 million over budget, while Health Minister James Reilly is said to be under pressure to make cuts of €500 million plus next year.
Meanwhile, junior doctors are on a short break from their industrial action, which saw outpatient appointments cancelled last week, over the Government’s continued failure to implement the EU Working Time Directive.
The Irish Hospital Consultants’ Association (IHCA) has warned that surgeons are not getting enough theatre time because of a lack of beds, nurses and anaesthetists, putting their skills at risk and prompting them to go abroad permanently for work rather than take up contracts in the Irish health service.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) and Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) have accused the HSE of forcing students and newly qualified nurses and midwives into controversial graduate schemes, which only pay 80 per cent of the staff nurse/midwife rate of pay.
There are claims that the Medical Card system is in chaos, with cards being taken off people for dubious reasons. There were 155 people on trolleys on Monday. And, the families of adult children with disabilities are still reeling from the threat to their children’s services earlier this year, which was only resolved at the eleventh hour, and are embracing themselves for more of the same next year because ongoing budgets have not been secured.
It was also revealed on Monday night that GPs have not yet been contacted regarding the proposed initiative, which the IMO GP Committee said is not covered by any existing contract between GPs and the HSE and will require negotiation.
The Government has denied claims that it has pulled a political stunt but we might suspect a bit of magic is afoot in their ability to create something from less than nothing… jus’ like that.