Government plan for extra €2bn Covid-19 fund criticised over lack of detail

The Government is to ask the Oireachtas to approve almost €2 billion in additional funding for the health service this week to deal with the Covid-19 emergency.

The Government is also to look for authorisation for an increased allocation of €483 million for jobs and enterprise development.

The revised spending authorisation, if approved by the Oireachtas, will see expenditure on health exceed €20 billion for the first time.

However, further supplementary funding for the health service may be required later in the year, a report by the Parliamentary Budget Office in the Oireachtas has suggested. It is critical of a lack of detail from Government on how the additional funding will be spent.

“The HSE generates its own income. If the pandemic reduces the income of the HSE in 2020 below what has been budgeted for, a supplementary estimate may be necessary on that basis alone.”

Further funding could also be needed if there is a second surge in the number of coronavirus cases.

The deferral of treatment for patients during the pandemic and the increase in waiting lists may result “in a significant knock-on effect on non-pandemic public healthcare spending later in 2020 and into 2021”, the report also warns.

It suggests two significant components will be the roughly €320 million for personal protective equipment (PPE) and the estimated €115 million per month cost of taking over private hospitals to provide additional capacity during the peak of the pandemic.