Friday 23 February 2018

Hospitals told to axe staff and shut wards

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

Hospital ward closures and a cut in operations for public patients on waiting lists are due after new cost-cutting instructions issued by the Health Service Executive (HSE) yesterday.

The HSE, which is facing a €281m over-run, wrote to all hospitals telling managers to axe agency staff and overtime bills.

It means there will be less staff to keep some wards open, with a knock-on effect on waiting lists and overcrowding.

The directive sent by HSE executive Laverne McGuinness said the hospitals -- which collectively have a €133m over-run -- had to live within their budgets.

She said the current level of staff overtime was unsustainable and needed to be reduced while maintaining patient safety and quality of care.

In order to ensure patients are looked after, the hospitals will have to shut down beds if there are not enough staff to cater for them.

Hospital activity, which was above target for the first half of this year, had to be cut back to 2012 agreed targets.

The most recent figures showed the worsening financial state of the HSE with the deficit rising to €281m in May, up from €200m at the end of April.

The hospital with the highest deficit is Beaumont Hospital Dublin (€11m), followed by Limerick Regional (€10m) and Galway University Hospital (€8.6m).

There are 695 beds closed while there are 342,665 people on outpatient waiting lists to see a specialist or have tests.

Meanwhile, up to 56,000 people with long-term illnesses, who were promised free GP care from early March, are still waiting for the benefit, it was confirmed yesterday.

The measure, announced in the Budget, was meant to be a first step in the Government's grand health plan to extend free GP care to the entire population by 2015.

But the proposed legislation needed to usher in the free doctor visits for people in the Long-Term Illness Scheme is still being drafted.

Bills

People on the scheme already receive free drugs and appliances, but because of their conditions they end up with high GP bills.

The delay is yet another setback for Health Minister James Reilly and Junior Minister for Primary Care Roisin Shortall.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health told the Irish Independent that GP Primary legislation was required to provide the GP service without fees to people on the basis of having a medical condition.

"The existing legislation bases the provision of GP services largely on the basis of means.

"The Government has approved the general scheme of the new legislation in early July."

A spokeswoman for MS Ireland said people with long-term illness had a greater need to see their GP.

"If they had free GP care it would assist greatly," she said.

Irish Independent

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