HEALTH Minister James Reilly has not ruled out having to cut hospital budgets again next year – despite warnings about the risks to patients.
The minister said the upcoming Budget will be "very tough".
"Certain things have happened to reduce the amount of money which would have been available from the Promissary Note," he added.
He was speaking after Dr Rhona Mahony, pictured, the master of the National Maternity Hospital in Holles St, warned that the life and health of patients could be put at risk if cuts are made to a point where staffing reaches a critical stage.
Dr Reilly said he couldn't make any promises about hospital funding next year until he gets his budget and the HSE examines its service plan for 2014.
"Health is very different to other departments. We have pressures in relation to demographics – small babies are surviving much better. Older people, thankfully, are living (longer) but they can have more than one condition and spend longer in hospital," he said.
"We have already taken out nearly 20pc of the budget and 10pc of staff with an 8pc rise in population."
He said he was speaking to Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin in the run-up to the Budget but could not disclose what was being planned for the health service.
Meanwhile, the minister has said that the HSE is due to introduce a voluntary redundancy scheme next year targeted at staff who are "surplus to requirements."
He said the HSE has operated a moratorium on the filling of management and administrative posts in recent years, so as to focus development funds as far as possible on front-line services. Management and administrative staff numbers have dropped by 2,176 since September 2007 – a reduction of over 16pc.
"In the context of the 2013 Employment Control Framework, numbers employed in the health service must be further reduced," Dr Reilly added.
He also revealed that 78 management and administrative staff have recently been approved for incentivised career breaks.