The local health service couldn’t be in better shape.
That, at least, was the message delivered by Fine Gael TD James Bannon despite evidence last week which indicated trolley logjams were back with a vengeance with over 300 people in hospitals without a bed.
Rather, Mr Bannon pointed to significant reductions in waiting times and the spectre of a new Longford primary care centre as reasons to be optimistic going forward.
“On taking office two years ago, Minister (James) Reilly committed to overhauling the health service from the crisis state it was left in by the previous Fianna Fáíl-led Government, to a world class service that the people of this country deserve.
“While it won’t happen overnight, there has been significant progress made so far with a 73 per cent reduction for patients waiting three months for treatment, a 79 per cent reduction for those waiting six months, a 97 per cent reduction for those waiting nine months, and a 100 per cent decrease for those waiting on treatment for more than twelve months.”
Mr Bannon chose not to refer to the 312 patients left on trolleys last Wednesday (March 27) at various hospitals nationwide. “Since the end of February 2011, waiting lists longer than a year for inpatient and day case procedures have been eliminated in 15 hospitals and waiting lists longer than nine months for these procedures have been eliminated in nine hospitals,” he said.
Administrative officer Mark McNerney said a three per cent gap or €206,000 hole in the local authority’s balance sheets for the first six months of this year was largely down to recouping monies from cash strapped businesses.
He did nonetheless raise hope some, or a sizeable percentage of that shortfall, might be tempered over the next six months by the setting up of carefully devised financial plans with firms.
“The reality is the gap is down to the problem we are having collecting rates and we are working on that.
“Businesses are engaging with us in setting up payment plans so hopefully that figure of €200,000 or so will be bridged somewhat,” he said.
Mr McNerney’s admission was made in response to queries made by Cllr Tony Flaherty as to the council’s worsening financial situation.
Outlining just how sudden the turnaround has been, Mr McNerney said just 12 months ago, the council had cash reserves of well over €80,000 to call upon.
“The knock on effect for Longford Town Council is we will have to make an adjustment of €95,000,” he said, when referring to expected reductions in central government funding. “The adopted budget (for 2012) is €7,042,880 and we have €3,739,814 spent. That’s 3 per cent above what it should be.
“The net effect of that is there is €206,688 of a deficit which is a very difficult decision to be in. When I compare that to the same period last year when I presented you with figures for the same period, we had a credit balance of €85,000. There is a variance there between the two periods of almost €292,000.”