Cuts force hospital to shut down major surgical ward
ONE of the country's biggest hospitals has shut a major surgical ward as the first in a wave of expected cutbacks begins to bite.
The Mater hospital in Dublin, which has a waiting list of 5,295 patients in need of surgery, has been forced to close its 32-bed surgical ward.
The hospital is struggling with a €9m deficit and has had to cut down on agency staff and overtime in order to try to balance its books -- but this leaves it with fewer staff to provide ward cover.
The cuts come in the wake of the HSE order that €130m in savings be generated before the end of the year.
A spokesman for the hospital told the Irish Independent: "St Michael's Elective Surgery Unit is a short-stay unit that facilitates patients undergoing a wide range of surgical procedures. It has been closed, for now, as a cost-saving measure."
Other hospitals now have no other option but the reduce activity and treat fewer patients to avoid huge over-runs. Cuts in Letterkenny hospital in Donegal will mean fewer operations being carried out, with day surgery down by five sessions each a week.
It will also mean a reduction of endoscopy sessions, the closure of eight surgical beds on the orthopaedic ward and the end of minor surgery in the community outreach clinic.
The Letterkenny closures will also see the closure of the short-stay and overflow ward. Nurses warned last night that more patients would end up enduring longer delays on A&E trolleys.
The HSE is keeping a lid on information in the wake of the outcry last month over cuts to home helps, home care and personal assistants for people with a disability.
The Government had to shelve the €10m cuts in personal assistant services for people with a disability after an angry overnight demonstration outside Leinster House.
There were already 852 beds closed in hospitals across the country before the latest round of cuts. Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation officer Regina Durcan appealed to Health Minister James Reilly to prevent the loss of frontline posts in order to maintain adequate services.
Fianna Fail Donegal TD Charlie McConalogue said he was alarmed that Letterkenny hospital had not been allowed to renew the contracts of 14 newly qualified nurses.
"These cuts are a direct impact of Mr Reilly's complete failure to manage the health budget and to prioritise resources where they are most needed," he said.
Meanwhile, the HSE said last night that €8m would have to be cut from the home help budget before the end of the year.
The HSE said its cuts would aim to minimise the impact on direct patient care. Decisions in relation to the provision of home help hours will continue to be based on a review of individual needs.
No recipient of this service and who had an assessed need for the service would be without a service, said a spokesman.