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The association welcomed the increase in health spending but pointed to a number of concerns.
Dr Tom Ryan, IHCA President, said that the cumulative cuts of €1.7 billion in health sector capital expenditure since 2008 had resulted in an acute health infrastructure that is crumbling, with many hospitals attempting to treat patients with inadequate capacity and equipment that is increasingly obsolete.
According to Dr Ryan, it is disappointing that the 2017 budget has not allocated significantly increased capital funding to address the critical acute hospital and mental health capacity deficits which are preventing consultants and frontline staff from treating patients without delays.
He said increased NTPF funding to address unacceptable and growing waiting lists is, at best, a stop gap measure. Inadequate acute and ICU bed capacity and insufficient operating capacity are root causes of the waiting list crisis, he outlined.
Meanwhile, the Irish Heart Foundation’s head of advocacy Mr Chris Macey said the decision to postpone the introduction of a sugar-sweetened drinks levy to 2018, despite it being a cornerstone measure of the new national obesity strategy, suggests “there is still no genuine cross-Government commitment to tackling obesity”.
Elsewhere, Rehab, one of the country’s largest disability charities, said Budget 2017 will make only small changes to the lives of people with disabilities. It said that while a €5 increase in social welfare payments is welcome, it will do little to close the gap in income that people with disabilities have experienced over the last eight years.
“Of particular concern is the decision to limit reductions in prescription charges to people aged over 70,” said the organisation. “This reduction should also have been extended to people with disabilities aged under 70. A disability knows no age and does not distinguish between somebody who is 20-years-old or 75-years-old.”
The CEO of Down Syndrome Ireland (DSI), Mr Pat Clarke, described the €5 per week increase to the Disability and Carer’s Allowances as “pitiful and wholly lacking in any attempt to redress seven years of austerity measures inflicted on people with disabilities, including those with Down syndrome”.
However, Mr Clarke welcomed the extension of entitlement of medical cards for all children who are in receipt of the Domiciliary Care Allowance, including those with Down syndrome.
“We welcome this provision which we have long-campaigned and lobbied for. It lifts a huge burden of worry and anxiety from parents. Access to basic healthcare is a human right and one that will now be guaranteed to all children with Down syndrome,” said Mr Clarke.