There is 'a fundamental dishonesty' in the health service budget, former Director-General of the HSE Tony O'Brien has claimed.
€22.5 billion has been allocated for the public health system as part of Budget 2024.
The figure has been roundly criticised as insufficient to meet rising demand in the sector.
Mr O'Brien told Newstalk Breakfast those running the HSE are being put in a very difficult position.
"The numbers don't add up," he said.
"They place the people who run the HSE at the moment in a very, very difficult position.
"They either have to put forward a service plan that has an inbuilt deficit - which strictly speaking they're not allowed to do - or they have to make, or try to make, a series of cuts that are undoable.
"All this at a time when the official policy of the Government is to expand access to healthcare under the Sláintecare programme.
"These numbers simply don't add up, they don't make any sense and they're suggestive of something going on politically that isn't really focused on meeting the needs of our population when it comes to healthcare."
'This ridiculous game'
Mr O'Brien said the cost of the existing level of service, which means keeping the health service running with no expansion, is about €2 billion for the current year.
"They got less than €1 billion, and hey presto, they're on track for a deficit of over a billion - which various people in Government insist on calling over-spending, when in fact it's under-funding," he said.
"I think that this is really about fixing the overall mathematics of the budget.
"What they're seeking to do is have a situation in which more money is being spent than they're owning up to.
"Rather than putting it upfront into the health service budget, they're playing this ridiculous game... where you deliberately under-fund the health service, force the people running the health service to 'overspend', and then kick them up and down the high streets every month when the figures come out".
Mr O'Brien said there is a disconnect between the policy and monetary positions of the health service.
"There is a fundamental dishonesty about the way the health service budget has been handled in this year's budget, and something's got to give," he added.
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