| -0.7°C Dublin

Beaumont forced to close wards in cash crisis

One of the country's busiest hospitals is to close 52 beds to stay within budget.

Beaumont Hospital in Dublin announced a 33-bed ward will shut within days, with the rest axed in the next two weeks as management tries to meet a €19m shortfall. Specialist neuro-surgery, transplantation and cancer services will not be included in the closures.

With 15 people already on trolleys in Beaumont's emergency department, patient groups warned the public will be effected by any cuts.

Stephen McMahon, of the Irish Patients' Association, said there were concerns more hospitals could be forced to do the same.

"The real worry is that we know a lot of hospitals are significantly over budget," said Mr Mahon."We are concerned that this could happen around the country."

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) earlier warned patients are already suffering due to a recruitment embargo across the sector.

But Mr Mahon said it was time for health staff -- who are working to rule -- to pass on financial information on each hospital to management and the HSE.

"We are concerned senior management of the HSE are like pilots flying at night who don't know how much fuel is in the tank," he continued.

"Hospitals that are significantly over budget may have a crash landing on services they provide patients before the HSE knows."

Beaumont Hospital said it was doing everything possible to minimise the impact of budgetary pressures on patients.

In a statement, management confirmed its moves were part of a plan intended to improve utilisation of beds as well as to achieve financial savings in the current year.

Beaumont revealed its plan also includes increasing private bed use, which it said will have no impact on patient services but is expected to yield an additional two million euro.

Reductions in prices from suppliers and other non-pay spending reductions are expected to yield a further €8.6m.

Elsewhere Beaumont maintained that since the introduction of the new nursing home subvention scheme at the end of last year, it has managed to free up 50 of 140 acute beds once occupied by long-stay patients.

"The number of long-stay patients will decline further in coming months with the opening of a 100-bed unit for long stay patients in St Joseph's Hospital in Raheny, which is part of Beaumont Hospital," it added.