HSE Chief Executive Cathal Magee has told the Public Accounts Committee that the primary care strategy, which was launched in 2001, was very ambitious and has not been delivered.

Mr Magee said it was intended that there would be incremental funding of €650m, but the reality is that the investment has not been delivered.

He said the primary care strategy is central to the function of Ireland's health system.

In 2001, it was estimated that there would be 1,000 primary care teams, with 500 GPs and 2,000 nurses and midwives assigned to the teams.

The committee was told that there are 425 primary care teams currently in operation and 489 teams are planned.

In response to a question from Labour TD Anne Ferris, Mr Magee said 400 people across all disciplines have expressed interest in availing of redundancy before the end of February.

He acknowledged that there is no question that gaps will emerge when these people leave and said that there is funding for recruitment to alleviate the expected reduction in staffing levels.

Mr Magee also told the committee that €55m of additional funding has been provided for the Fair Deal nursing home scheme.

He said he is satisfied that the funding is adequate to meet demand this year. The scheme was paused last year amid concerns that there was not enough funding to meet demand.

The committee was told that 583 people were on a waiting list for the Fair Deal scheme at the end of December 2011, and the average waiting time for approval to get on the scheme is four weeks.

100,000 extra medical cards to be provided

The committee was also told that 100,000 extra medical cards will be provided to people this year.

Laverne McGuinness of the HSE was responding to a question from Fine Gael's Simon Harris about what he described as lengthy delays in processing medical cards.

Ms McGuinness said the application form is being tailored so that it is easier to fill in. She said staff are checking that all details are valid and the level of probity is working.

She said there is no blockage there and the correct forms that come in are processed within 15 days.

Ms McGuinness said 85,000 extra medical cards were processed last year, and 100,000 extra medical cards will be processed this year.