The Tánaiste will be aware of the concerns that have been expressed about the ability of the Health Service Executive to deliver front-line services in 2014, particularly when it is faced with a cut of €666 million, as referred to by the Minister for Health in the budget debate. The figure may even rise above €1 billion, as referred to by the chief executive of the HSE. The recent letters from CEOs have further heightened public concern.
The Government is convinced that patient safety will not be jeopardised because, it claims, the money will follow the patient. I put it to the Tánaiste that the money is not following the patient, particularly when it comes to children with life-limiting conditions. Professor Owen Smith has confirmed that there are delays in giving chemotherapy to children with cancer when they are in hospital. Sadly, there is little support on offer to families who wish to care for their children at home. Funding has not been ring-fenced for home care teams or nursing care on a 24-hour basis. Families are being refused medical cards because they are seen to be over the income limits, when the reality is that they are experiencing serious economic difficulties caring for their sick children around the clock. Why is the Government on the one hand apparently committed to the universality of health care and to introducing something we all welcome - namely, free GP care for children aged under six - while at the same time it is not allowing children with life-limiting conditions to have medical cards? The Government stands indicted for its failure to provide funding for dedicated palliative care of children suffering from life-limiting conditions.