Hospital will keep children's ward shut due to budget cuts
A 25-bed ward , closed due to financial pressures for the last nine months in Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin, will not be re-opening , it was confirmed yesterday.
It was hoped the hospital would be able to re-open the St Joseph's ward this year and relieve pressure on beds for children needing admission.
A spokesperson told the Irish Independent, however, that it was planning to re-open an operating theatre which had also been closed in May from next month.
The closure of the ward and theatre caused controversy last year as parents protested at the long waiting lists for children in need of orthopaedic and heart operations.
The hospital had to impose the cuts last year after its budget for 2009 was €9m short of what was needed.
The spokesperson said the hospital was still awaiting information in relation to its 2010 allocation from the Health Service Executive (HSE). "The hospital broke even in 2009 due to a cost-containment programme which included the closure of 25 beds and one rotational operating theatre," the spokesperson said.
"The hospital made a decision that, with effect from Monday, February 1, all theatres would be available for patient scheduling -- within available resources.
"The decision to re-open all theatres will be kept under ongoing review and the hospital will have to operate within its financial allocation for 2010, which has yet to be finalised".
However, the spokesperson added that the 25 beds closed in 2009 would "remain closed".
Health Service Executive chief Brendan Drumm asked the hospital to open the closed theatre last year but it failed to do so.
Prof Drumm said his hands were tied because Crumlin had an independent board.
He disputed the hospital's €9m figure and said it was asked to make savings of €5m, which it could have done by making changes in just three areas that would not directly affect patients.
"Talk of cutbacks or shortfalls is misplaced because they never existed," he added.
However, cancellation of operations has remained a problem, mainly due to the lack of intensive care beds.
A strategy was worked out in the middle of last year to reduce the backlog of children needing orthopaedic surgery but considerable delays remained.
Meanwhile, in Limerick Regional Hospital yesterday, nurses stepped up their industrial action in protest against overcrowding at the hospital.
They are refusing to cooperate with additional duties, including answering telephones, pushing hospital trolleys and booking non- emergency taxis.