Patients at risk from punishing health cuts, HSE warns
SWINGEING Government cuts will put patients at increased risk in our hospitals, the Health Service Executive (HSE) warned yesterday.
The HSE service plan -- which sets out how it will spend its €14.07bn budget for 2010 -- bluntly warns that the recruitment ban has left worrying gaps in some services, with several key staff not being replaced.
The problem is compounded by the worsening industrial relations climate, orders to cut 1,600 jobs this year, early retirements and a requirement that one experienced nurse must leave for every two student nurses taken on.
The plan warns it is inevitable that services will be reduced in some locations unless unions agree to greater flexibility in working hours and rostering.
The plan, approved by Health Minister Mary Harney, cautions: "The ability to maintain safe services at the 2009 levels in all facilities will be significantly impacted by, firstly, the number and type of our staff who have left the organisation and those who choose to retire or leave the organisation in 2010 and cannot be replaced and, secondly, the practicality of redeploying staff."
It reveals a target to cut 33,000 admissions through emergency departments this year by diverting patients to medical assessment units.
It will also cut the number of people needing operations and other procedures which require an overnight stay in hospital by 32,367 to 540,993.
At the same time, it plans to increase the numbers treated on a day case -- with no overnight stay -- by 42,310 to 689,310. The numbers waiting for these day- case procedures rose last year.
It plans to see the same number of patients on an outpatient basis, at 3.3 million, but wants hospitals to concentrate more on new attendances for people who have yet to see a specialist than those making return visits.
HSE chief Brendan Drumm said yesterday the aim is to have 20 medical assessment units -- so far, 12 are up and running countrywide. In his introduction to the service plan, he said he expects Ireland will have the best primary care structures -- services outside hospitals -- in the world by 2011.
Other elements of the plan include €10m to bring homecare packages up to 5,100, benefiting 9,613 people, a target for 100pc of patients needing colonoscopy for possible bowel cancer to get tested within four weeks and a target to increase child and adolescent mental health teams by five to 55.