THE HSE is planning savage cuts of €1.7 million over the remaining four months of this year at the Midland Regional Hospital, Portlaoise.
The news comes following last Thursday’s announcement by Health Minister James Reilly that €130 million worth of cuts are being made to frontline health services and homecare supports.
Sinn Féin’s Brian Stanley fumed, “It’s clear, given the extent of the cuts, that services at Portlaoise Hospital will be decimated.”
Deputy Stanley discussed the issue with James Conway, Hospital Manager for the HSE Midland and Dublin region on Monday and he revealed that the scale of the cuts has prompted the HSE to admit that ‘hospitals will be forced to take steps such as sending patients home for the week-end to save money’.
Portlaoise hospital is already working with a budget of almost €8 million less than that of five years ago. And this latest €1.7m slash represents a 12% reduction in the hospital budget for the September to December period.
Taken alongside the huge increase in demand for services due to a spiraling population, Deputy Stanley argued that the cuts will have ‘a devastating impact on services available’.
Deputy Stanley also slammed the cuts to home help services. “The 5.5% cut to home help services, which equates to 600,000 home help hours, is a particularly vicious blow.”
Fine Gael’s Charlie Flanagan said the Government had to take action following very serious HSE over spending and that it wasn’t in the position to throw money at the HSE like previous administrations. “We are in dire financial straits and every effort will be made to ensure these non-operational measures don’t adversely affect frontline services.”
In relation to Home Help care, Deputy Flanagan said there is a €195m budget to deliver 10.1 million hours of care and he pointed out that every case in Laois will be reviewed on a case by base basis. “I’m confident that those is most need of the service will continue to have it.”
Labour Senator John Whelan said the proposed Home Help cuts simply don’t add up. “The HSE proposals will not save a euro and illustrate that it speaks with forked tongue when it comes to the provision of elderly and primary care.”
Senator Whelan also urged Minister Reilly to proceed with his plans to abolish a ‘completely out of touch’ HSE and restore the Midland Health Board.
He explained, “These planned cuts reflect a mindset within the HSE management which can’t see past its nose and use its massive €13 billion budget better. It is further evidence, if any is needed, that the Minister should proceed with his plans to abolish the HSE structures. The regional health boards, such as the Midland Health Board should be restored.”
Senator Whelan suggested that when the MHB operated and was run by CEO Denis Doherty and Programme Manager, PJ Fitzpatrick it was far more effective, accessible and accountable.
Meanwhile, a HSE Midlands spokesperson said it is working to develop implementation plans in order to give effect to these measures. “These plans will be developed and discussed with staff and unions over the coming week.”
The spokesperson added, “While implementing these plans the health services will at all times attempt to minimise the impact on frontline services and ensure that patient/client quality and safety is maintained to the highest standard possible.”
FF and SF are to table a motion of no confidence in Minister Reilly.