Thursday 18 December 2014

Patients feel brunt as HSE swings the axe to save €200m

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

Published 31/01/2014 | 02:30

Tallaght hospital
Tallaght Hospital is affected

PATIENTS will feel the brunt of a €200m cut in funding for struggling hospitals this year as yet more health cuts bite.

Hospitals will suffer an average reduction of 4pc in their individual budgets despite ongoing delays endured by public patients on waiting lists.

The grim spending figures emerged yesterday as the Health Service Executive (HSE) revealed how it will carve out its €12.5bn budget across the health service, hitting areas of key need such as medical cards and mental health.

Director of acute hospitals Ian Carter said hospitals expect more than 1.1 million patients to attend emergency departments this year and there will be around 70,000 births.

As the cuts take hold it is expected the numbers of public patients admitted for procedures and surgery will have to drop by 3pc, affecting 3,000 who need an overnight stay and another 24,660 who could be treated on a daycare basis.

St James's and Tallaght hospitals in Dublin, which sent warning letters to the HSE late last year cautioning about the impact of more budget reductions, are among those hit.

Hospitals have been told that no adult should wait more than eight months on a waiting list for surgery – but this is expected to see thousands of procedures being outsourced to the private sector in order to meet the figure.

Some hospitals will introduce a "money follows the patient" system, bringing to an end block grants and the pay-per-procedure model.

Director of primary care John Hennessy said that one million medical cards will be reviewed this year.

Around 75,000 people stand to lose their full medical cards next year and there will be a net loss of 15,000 cards despite new people continuing to qualify in large numbers.

He said the new income guidelines, which will affect the over-70s, will be implemented as well as the downgrading to a GP card for people returning to work.

The aim is to save around €50m by getting more people to switch from branded to generic drugs, while GPs are expected to cut their medicine bills by another €20m.

SUICIDE

The HSE has set aside €37m for the introduction of free GP visits for children aged five and under and meetings are to begin with GP bodies on the issue today.

The mental health budget for 2014 is €765m and more efforts are to be made to target funding aimed at suicide prevention.

Director of mental health Stephen Mulvaney acknowledged that the €35m which was ringfenced for mental health services in previous years has been cut to €20m this year.

He said the €20m would allow for the filling of 250 t0 280 posts and this would be phased in.

Active recruitment will begin after March and the staff should be in place at the end of the year.

Irish Independent

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