19 Aug 2022

HSE chief says there is no ‘black hole’ in its budget

HSE chief says there is no ‘black hole’ in its budget

The head of the HSE said there is no black hole in its budget and rejected claims of “sloppiness” in its financial reporting.

Paul Reid also moved to defend its recruitment plans, denying there were “fake targets” for hiring staff within the health system.

It comes after the Sunday Business Post reported details of discussions between senior government officials.

The comments were claimed to have been made by officials at the Department of Health at a meeting on January 27 to discuss details about the health budget oversight group.

It was also reported that officials made comments about “dysfunction” and distrust in the health sector.

Mr Reid said the “reality” does not reflect a “very collaborative, constructive and challenging relationship” between the HSE and the Department of Health.

“It doesn’t reflect what our big focus is on and the issues for the public which are waiting lists, reform and trying to recover from Covid and the impact it has had,” Mr Reid told RTE Morning Ireland.

Mr Reid said he was surprised by the language reported and said the figures quoted by the government officials were “factually incorrect”.

It was reported that officials raised issues of a possible prior year adjustment in its budget for 2020, which they said could be in the region of “hundreds of millions” of euro.

However, Mr Reid rejected these claims.

“I want to make the point, there will be no adjustment of hundreds of millions in our budgets. There is no black hole,” he added.

“What is happening is a process that’s ongoing jointly between ourselves and the department, which is an assessment of a potential financial adjustment, and that’s a process that has been initiated by ourselves, the HSE, our audit and risk committee and the board, to look at certain levels of provisions and approvals at the end of the year December 2020.

“All that has done is to give assurance to the boards, the department, the Oireachtas, that certain cash management we have, it will not involve any potential increase in expense.

“That’s unfortunate commentary and it’s not correct.”

He said that any adjustments, if there are any, would be less than 100 million euro.

The officials also claimed that a target of recruiting 10,000 staff this year was not going to be met, and that the updated figure would be 5,500.

Mr Reid said that since January 2020, the HSE has recruited 24,000 people in the health service.

He said that there has been a 12,500 net increase in HSE employees.

“So when we set out to do the service plan for 2020, we have funding and we secured funding and are really are appreciative for the 10,000 recruited staff,” Mr Reid added.

“When we looked at what the market was telling us over the past two years, the reality of what we foresaw is a really difficult market here in Ireland. The reality of it will probably be somewhere around 5,500.

“However, we are still striving to recruit up to levels of 10,000.”

Mr Reid said that the HSE needs and wants to achieve those levels of recruiting 10,000 health staff and said they are achievable.

“We advised the minister that reality of what the market may facilitate would be about 5,500, but we will pull out all stops to achieve further than that and that’s exactly what will be set out in the national service plan,” he added.

“So it’s actually good practice of the way we’ve gone about it.”

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