MORE THAN €50 million allocated by the Government to develop mental health and primary care services this year is to be used to offset the deficit in the Health Service Executive.
As tension continues between the Coalition parties over cuts in services, the Department of Health said last night that “unspent service development money is to be used on a once-off basis to fund services that are experiencing an overrun due to increased demand”.
The planned investment programmes affected by the move are being spearheaded by Labour Party Ministers of State Kathleen Lynch and Róisín Shortall.
Under the original plans €35 million was to be invested in mental health services to allow for the recruitment of about 400 staff and the opening of new units. About 200 personnel were to have been recruited as part of a €20 million investment in primary care.
The deferral of the €50 million programme is among additional cuts to be announced shortly by Minister for Health James Reilly. The department said: “The intention is that the developments will proceed in the latter part of 2012 and into 2013. In this regard, preparations continue for the roll-out of the service developments.”
Bodies in the disability sector funded by the HSE are expected to have their funding reduced for the rest of the year to make up for the Government’s reversal of more than €10 million cuts in services for the disabled.
In a separate development, the head of the HSE’s National Office for Suicide Prevention, Dr Stephanie O’Keeffe, has resigned after only three months. Dr O’Keeffe is moving to a new post in the Department of Health. Her predecessor, Geoff Day, took early retirement only last September shortly after raising concerns over resources and staffing.