As if A&Es weren't bad enough, now HSE to shut some

Kevin Doyle

THE QUEUES and waiting times in our dreadful A&E departments are about to get even worse.

The (HSE) is now considering shutting emergency departments across the country to save money.

A shortage of junior doctors may also result in cuts across a range of health services from July.

It's another decision which beggars belief from the twin health sector chiefs, Minister Mary Harney and her sidekick HSE boss, Brendan Drumm.

Ms Harney faced pressure to outline how her cutbacks will impact the public as the situation was described as "pretty disastrous".

Opposition TDs also raised serious concerns after reports that a selection of college courses are also in line for the chop.

However, Ms Harney was saying little about the reports, with her spokesperson commenting that the Department of Health was not aware of any proposals from the HSE to depart from their service plan for budgetary reasons.

"We are aware for some time of likely issues to arise re NCHDs (junior doctors) but it's too early to say what impact there may be and the HSE is looking at various plans to deal with any situation that could arise," said the spokesperson.

The statement comes after the HSE's national director of human resources, Sean McGrath told the Sunday Business Post that it was "no longer sustainable to have so many emergency departments open 24 hours".

Fine Gael and Labour have now called for the Minister to clarify the situation with regard to both budgets and junior doctors.

Labour's health spokeswoman Jan O'Sullivan said: "The whole situation is pretty disastrous. We have already been told about the closure of hospital beds."

Labour Party representatives held a protest at Beaumont Hospital over the weekend in response to the announcement that 52 beds at the hospital will be closed.

Ms O'Sullivan said the suggestion that A&E could now be closed "beggars belief".

For it's part, the HSE said it was too early to outline what hospitals might be affected by future cutbacks.

"We are aware there is a shortage of NCHDs. The expectation would be, come July 1, we may see a further reduction and obviously there would be consequences of that," a spokesperson said.

"Yes, some services may need to be reconfigured but it is too early to speculate."