PATIENT numbers at Waterford Regional Hospital are set to be drastically reduced, with 2,200 fewer people treated a year because of budget cuts.
Operating theatres, wards and beds have already started to close to save cash at one of the country's busiest hospitals.
However, even more drastic measures are on the cards with cancer patients, those with debilitating arthritic conditions, and children set to be affected by further planned cuts.
A draft document on action to bring in €14m budget cuts shows the effect of the hospital's financial problems.
The internal memo, obtained by the Irish Independent, outlines how €7m can be clawed back by taking drastic measures including:
• Slashing day cases treated annually by 10pc -- or 2,000 fewer people a year.
• Decrease of in-patients by 5pc -- or 200 fewer a year.
• Closure of two of the hospital's operating theatres. One already closed last year.
• Closure of a ward with 25 in-patient beds.
• Closure of four more paediatric beds, after six closed in 2011.
• One intensive care bed, one critical care bed, and two regional neo-natal intensive care beds to go.
• Radiology for cancer patients to be slashed by a quarter to save the hospital €180,000.
• Treatment for patients on expensive drugs for arthritic conditions to be cut.
Other cuts include a planned reduction in the spend on agency nurses, and a delay in the replacement of three consultants. The document clearly shows that acute services are to be hit hardest. It warns that patients will be affected by a "reduction in theatre availability and impact on scheduled care".
Staff will also be affected -- they will have to re-arrange rosters and increase on-call rotas.
The Health Service Executive last night responded to the cuts by stating nothing had been finalised in WRH.
"The HSE South is currently in the process of finalising its regional service plan," it said.
Waterford senator, David Cullinane, raised the matter in the Seanad stating that cancer care and complex surgeries were "under real threat" in the south-east.