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’Huge’ capital spending challenge looms for HSE

21 Nov 2016

The HSE is facing a huge challenge in terms of its spending on capital projects, its Director General (DG) has told a major health policy meeting in Dublin.

The share of capital spending that the health area got was far smaller than its share of revenue, and this was a major issue, he said.

Just under €9 billion would need to be spent in order to address issues of infection control over the next decade as well as ageing equipment (including ambulances), Tony O’Brien told the Policy Forum for Ireland conference on priorities for healthcare. That would require an increase in annual spending of just under €500 million at the end of the next four-year cycle. By 2027, an extra €1 billion annually would need to be spent.

A total of €375 million will be spent on capital projects in health this year — across primary care, mental health, acute care and other services. The amount of capital money available between 2017 and 2021 was €2.25 billion.

O’Brien said that the costs of replacing equipment, necessary to maintain quality in the healthcare system, would be €3.64 billion.

“There is a problem. A mid-term review of the capital programme is due in 2017,” the DG said. “Health needs to be very high on that agenda.”

O’Brien told those at the Policy Forum that he would ensure that those responsible for carrying out the review were “aware of the challenge”.

In his view, the health system needed to be redesigned to ensure that the true benefits of an eHealth system became available. “We are on the brink of electronic health records and the individual health identifier,” he said. “These will be a glue to integrate the healthcare system. Huge benefits will follow in terms of the democratisation of the healthcare environment — in terms of patient and client empowerment.”

gary.culliton@imt.ie

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