TIGHTER budgets are hampering progress in the overhaul of certain hospital services which are being held up as role models, a conference has been told.
The reconfiguration of hospital services in the Mid-West has been hailed as a model of success. It has led to hospitals such as Ennis General and Nenagh Hospital losing services to Limerick Regional Hospital, and is seen as the path to follow by other hospital regions.
However, Paul Burke, a Limerick surgeon appointed by the HSE to spearhead changes in the region, said there was a delay in the rollout of an advanced system to allow X-rays to be read across all the hospitals in the Mid-West.
He told the annual meeting of the Irish Hospital Consultants Association in Limerick that the system would allow one department of radiology dealing with X-rays and other scans to be set up for the entire region and it was "vital" to the success of the reconfiguration project.
However, the rollout has been delayed by the Government moratorium on the recruitment of radiographers and ultrasonographers.
"It is severely curtailing our ability to develop services in the local hospitals and this is the single biggest limiting factor to developing outpatient services in the local hospitals," Mr Burke said.
These outpatient services would allow specialists to conduct clinics locally and mean less travel for patients from Clare and other counties. It would allow them easy access to specialist surgical opinion but the advanced system of X-ray reading needed to be in place to achieve this.
His comments are likely to be seized on by TDs who are opposing any loss of service to bigger hospitals.