One in 10 hospital staff took sick days over bank holiday
ONE in 10 hospital staff called in sick over a bank holiday weekend, while women waiting for cancer tests suffered delays as consultants were on annual leave.
The stark revelations about the state of the health service came yesterday as new figures also revealed hospitals are sinking deeper into financial crisis.
Recently installed Secretary General at the Department of Health, Ambrose McLoughlin, gave a startling update on the state of the Health Service Executive.
He warned the health service had overspent by €330m at the end of August and this could rise before the end of the year.
He also spoke about the appalling level of staff "no shows" in one hospital over a bank holiday.
While he did not name the hospital in question, the fact that one in 10 staff called in sick was unsustainable, he warned. And in a further blow to the health system, it separately emerged that women who needed to be seen in a major cancer centre had to endure delays because two consultants took annual leave at the same time.
The women were referred for initial assessment to the breast clinic in Cork University Hospital in July, and should have been seen within 10 days.
But the hospital only managed to assess four in 10 of the women on time, admitting it was suffering from "less than optimal annual leave arrangements".
The series of revelations came on a bleak day for the HSE -- although the full impact of cutbacks on hospital services has yet to be revealed.
The HSE has so far refused to come clean on the swingeing cutbacks that must be enforced this autumn and winter.
More bed closures and longer delays for surgery, tests and specialist appointments now appear inevitable, as hospitals attempt to claw back a massive spending overrun.
Already new patients are being turned away from hospital outpatient clinics, as hospitals follow orders to treat fewer sick people, despite growing demands.
Health Minister James Reilly insisted last night that despite the worsening crisis, the number of public patients waiting the longest for surgery has fallen.
The minister, who survived a no confidence vote in the Dail this week, said at the end of July some 2,865 adults had been waiting for surgery for more than nine months -- a fall of 85 compared to June. The number of children waiting for surgery for more than five months fell by 237 to 1,014, he added.
Among the worst hit are Beaumont Hospital in Dublin, which has a deficit of €17m, Galway University Hospital which is down €12m and Cork University Hospital with a €10m deficit.
Just one in five patients in the accident and emergency department in Beaumont was admitted to a bed or seen to in July within the nine-hour target. There were 852 beds closed in hospitals nationally.
Tony O'Brien, the new head of the HSE, said it was threatening to name and shame consultants who failed to fill out forms on time to bring in money owed to public hospitals for treating private patients.