Tuesday 19 September 2017

Three more cash-crisis hospitals operating overdrafts

Eilish O'Regan and Michael Brennan

THREE other major hospitals have resorted to bank overdrafts to ensure they can maintain patient care.

The Mater, St Vincent's and Beaumont -- large Dublin hospitals which are all struggling with huge budget overruns -- have overdrafts, the Irish Independent has learned.

The disclosure follows revelations that Tallaght Hospital in south-west Dublin has applied for a €12m overdraft in order to maintain cashflow as it copes with a €10m overspend.

Spokesmen for the Mater and St Vincent's hospitals said they operated overdrafts, but neither hospital would say how much it is worth. Beaumont Hospital also confirmed if had an overdraft.

A spokeswoman for Tallaght Hospital refused to reveal the interest rate being charged by Allied Irish Banks. She said the rate is "commercially sensitive".

At Tallaght Hospital more patients are now coming to hospital on the day of the operation rather than the night before. An acute medical assessment unit was opened in the hospital in July and this has helped reduce the number of patients admitted to the hospital by 800.

Priority

Health Minister James Reilly said it makes "absolute sense" to have an overdraft in the running of a business.

"I think the Tallaght chief executive Eilish Hardiman is a new breed of modern manager," he said. "It (Tallaght) has increased its activity, reduced its cost base and continues to give patients its priority. That's the way it should be."

Dr Reilly, who was speaking to reporters at a conference on patient safety organised by nurses' regulatory board An Bord Altranais, insisted that huge efficiencies can still be made to withstand the €750m cut in funding due next year.

He said consultants should not be doing work that could be done by GPs and many nurses' tasks can be done by healthcare assistants.

The HSE has an overall budget overrun of more than €374m and will have to find in excess of €430m between now and the end of the year in cuts and income to balance its budget.

Speaking in the Dail, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said Dr Reilly was reforming a "completely dysfunctional" system and this would take time.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said the failure to achieve savings in the health budget had led to further cutbacks such as one million hours of home help being "severed".

Irish Independent

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