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Sunday 28 May 2017

Elderly to be hit by HSE cost-cutting measures

Gordon Deegan and Eilish O'Regan

Drastic cuts in health services, which could severely hit the elderly and people with a disability, have been proposed in an internal Health Service Executive (HSE) document, it was learned yesterday.

Among the series of proposed measures, aimed at saving more than €300m, is a cap on the issuing of new medical cards, except in emergency cases.

It also proposes cutting home-help hours by nearly a quarter and slashing the availability of personal assistants to people with a disability.

A spokesman for the HSE said last night while it was not possible to follow through on proposals to freeze the issuing of medical cards -- due to its statutory responsibilities -- other services will have to be curtailed because of the massive budget deficit.

The internal document, from the primary-care section of the HSE, is one of a number of draft proposals put forward by different areas of the organisation.

Although it is unclear how much of it will be implemented, its contents give a clear indication of the direction the HSE is taking.

The draft document circulated to senior managers proposed:

•Reducing home help hours by 600,000, or 24pc.

•Removing 400,000 personal assistant hours -- a drop of 61pc -- between now and year end to save €57.5m.

•Providing no further appliances or aids for the remainder of the year to save €6.5m.

•Freezing the issuing of 42,044 medical cards, except in emergency cases, between now and the end of the year in order to save €18m.

The document acknowledges that these measures "are substantial and radical with significant policy and legal implications and will require discussion with the Department of Health before implementation".

Budget

The HSE has already said it needs to save more than €300m to stay in budget.

Meanwhile, one of Cork's three emergency departments is to close in April as part of a major reorganisation of hospital services in the city.

The Health Service Executive has denied that the closure of the emergency department at the South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital (SIVUH) will increase pressure at the emergency departments at Cork University and the Mercy University Hospitals.

But these claims were met with scepticism yesterday. Local TD and Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said that the closure was bound to place more pressure on other emergency departments in Cork city.

Irish Independent

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