Service Plan shows how extra funding will benefit patients – Buttimer

Thursday, 27th November 2014

  • HSE Service Plan 2015 shows how increased funding will benefit patients.
  • Capital investment delivering services in Cork hospitals

Budget 2015 provided for increased funding for the health service; today we have seen how that extra money will benefit patients.  This includes an extra €625 million as part of a two year plan to increase health funding in what is the first step in delivering a multi-annual funding approach.

There are many challenges facing the health service and the improved budgetary position will allow it to target its efforts at certain areas.  The extra €25 million to address the issue of delayed discharges will benefit many patients and services.  Not only will this help to free up acute hospital beds it will also enable people to access home care packages, long term care beds and intermediate care beds.  Of this additional funding €10 million will go towards the Nursing Home Support Scheme, I hope that this will assist many of those families waiting on a place.

Disability services will also benefit from an additional €20 million. This will help to provide services for up to 1,400 young people who are due to leave school and rehabilitative training.  Each year accessing funding as young people move from children’s services to adult services can be a challenge.  By having extra funding available will help to ease the pressures on families and service providers.

Cork will benefit from some very significant capital investment.  Hospitals across the city will see the money that has been invested deliver fully operational services in 2015.  In Cork University Hospital a MRI and CT project as well as a 50 bed acute inpatient unit will be fully operational in the first quarter of 2015. Around the same time ophthalmology outpatient department will become fully operational at South Infirmary University Hospital. St. Finbarr’s and Mercy University Hospital will also see capital investment come online in 2015.  Despite the false claims of Deputy Martin, there has been investment in health services in Cork.

Although additional funding has been provided for the health service, many challenges remain.  The recruitment of more frontline staff, doctors, nurses and other professionals will be essential and the commitment by Minister Varadkar that this will happen is very welcome.  But management will also have an important role to play over the next twelve months.  It is important that every effort is made to operate the health service within the allocated budget.

Posted under Cork, Health, National Work

Reform of medical card system will make it more sensitive to people’s needs – Buttimer

Tuesday, 25th November 2014

  • Reforms to the medical card system announced by the Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar, TD
  • Medical card system will be more sensitive to the health and financial issues faced by individuals and their families

The reforms introduced today will lead to a fairer, more sensitive medical card system. It will ensure that people with serious illnesses will get access to the care that they need.

This reformed medical card system will still use financial means as its main criteria, however it will show greater flexibility to people with a serious and financially onerous medical condition who would not qualify for a medical card in normal circumstances. Furthermore, people with a serious illness who hold a discretionary card will be reassured to know that they will retain their card up to the introduction of these reforms.

From now on, people with terminal illnesses will no longer face the prospect of having their medical cards reviewed. The HSE have also been mandated to provide people with therapies or appliances if that’s what they need, even in the absence of a medical card.

The medical card scheme had, in the last fifteen years in particular become too beaurocratic and inflexible. I particularly welcome that Minister Varadkar has instructed the HSE to develop a single, integrated process for people to apply for a medical card, a GP visit card, the Long-Term Illness scheme, and the Drugs Payment Scheme. I welcome that access points are being established in health offices around the country to help people to apply for a medical card.

These reforms will help make the system more accessible and understandable to people. Most importantly, it will result in a medical card system which is more sensitive to the health and financial issues faced by individuals and their families.

 

Ten actions being taken by the HSE to improve the operation of the medical card system, particularly for people with significant medical needs:

  • An enhanced assessment process which takes into account the burden of an illness or a condition;
  • The greater exchange of information between the medical card central assessment office and the local health offices;
  • People with a serious illness who hold a discretionary card will retain their card pending implementation of the actions to improve the operation of the scheme;
  • The power of GPs to extend medical cards in difficult circumstances will be strengthened;
  • A clinical advisory group is being established by the HSE to develop guidance on assessing applications involving significant medical conditions;
  • The default position for medical cards given to people with terminal illnesses is that they will no longer be reviewed;
  • The HSE will be empowered to provide people with therapies or appliances if that’s what they need, even in the absence of a medical card;
  • The HSE will develop a single, integrated process for people to apply for a medical card, a GP visit card, the Long-Term Illness scheme, and the Drugs Payment Scheme;
  • Access points will be established around the country in health offices to support and assist people to make applications;
  • The Department and the HSE will consider the best way to make medical aids and appliances available to persons who do not hold a medical card, the provision of services to children with severe disabilities, and to enable people with particular needs to have these met on an individual basis rather than awarding a medical card to all family members.

 

Posted under Health, National Work

Buttimer calls for detailed examination of cost of medicine

Wednesday, 5th November 2014

  • Detailed examination of the costs of medicine needed.

Speaking at the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association’s launch of its information booklet ‘Bringing Health and Growth to Ireland’ I questioned the current costs of medication in Ireland and proposed that the issue be examined in detail by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children.

The patient who goes into his or her local pharmacy constantly asks why their medicine costs so much.  They ask why when they go on holidays, can they buy medicines at much lower costs?

We are told that international reference pricing is used and that a basket of nine countries are used to determine prices in Ireland.  If this is so then we need a further explanation of the variation in prices between each country.  We should know how and why the particular reference countries are chosen?

The amount spent on medicines accounts for around 13% of the health budget.  The cost to the HSE of drugs and medicines supplied under the GMS and community drug schemes, including the High Tech Drugs Scheme, was €1.547 billion in 2012.  It is estimated that the 2013 spend will be in the region of €1.426 billion.  This year the Health (Pricing and Supply of Medical Goods) Act 2013 is expected to deliver further savings of around €50 million.  Despite these saving the costs of medicines continue pose a challenge to all stakeholders.

To the consumer it seems that the price of medicines is higher here than it is in other countries.  New medicines, high tech drugs and personalised medicines are being brought to market at what seem to be ever increasing prices.  Therefore it is necessary that pricing models are explained in a way that makes sense.  Industry, policy makers and consumers need to engage in a conversation about the cost of medicines.  This is an issue that should be examined in detail by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children early in 2015.

We must address some ethical and social considerations.  The questions that need to be answered include how we determine the cost-to-benefit ratio and what changes need to be made to our systems of reimbursement?  This is required so that we can maximise the reach and benefit of the innovation and advancements made by the pharmaceutical industry.  An examination of all of the issues involved by the Health Committee can help to achieve a pricing structure that delivers value for both patients and taxpayers.

Posted under Health, National Work