A SENIOR doctor has expressed grave fears that several hospitals will run out of cash within eight weeks.
Mater Hospital consultant Michael O'Keeffe warned that the Health Service Executive will have no option but to seek a cash injection from the Government in a bid to keep hospitals afloat beyond the end of October.
In an alarming admission, Professor O'Keeffe said he believed the finances of hospitals are so dire that several in the capital will run out of cash within weeks.
And he warned a raft of hospital procedures would suffer huge delays as hospitals struggle to cope with patient demand.
Prof O'Keeffe told the Herald: "It is firmly my belief that a number of hospitals are running out of money. I have been contacted by individuals in the HSE who have confirmed this. It's clear that unless there is a significant cash injection, hospitals have just weeks until they run out of cash."
Asked whether the HSE would be forced to request additional funding from the Government, Prof O'Keeffe said: "Yes, in the form of a bailout-type scenario, perhaps. It's not rocket science to realise that if hospitals run out of money -- the area that is most at risk is wages.
"I believe there is a possibility that staff will have their wages withheld unless there is drastic action."
He added: "We haven't seen anything yet. The type of scenarios I'm talking about have been kept so quiet. But something like the non-payment of wages is going to happen, in my view.
"Hospitals are facing substantial deficits -- some are facing deficits to the tune of tens of millions of euro. We need to start devising a business model to run our hospitals because it's simply not working."
The extraordinary comments come as pressure intensifies on Health Minister James Reilly to quit in wake of the crisis facing the health system.
Fianna Fail Health spokesperson Billy Kelleher told the Herald: "What we are seeing now is major panic setting in among health professionals with respected doctors like Prof O'Keeffe warning that hospitals are just weeks away from not being able to operate. That is simply alarming.
"Minister Reilly was warned about hospitals' budgets as far back as last March. It's quite clear that there will be a massive dislocation of services in hospitals."
The HSE did not comment when contacted by the Herald.
Meanwhile, a Department of Health spokeswoman said: "The Department and the HSE are working intensively to address the budget deficit in the health sector. A number of measures have been put in place to reduce the overrun, including reducing agency and overtime between now and the end of the year.
"Each hospital has a service level agreement under which their budgets are agreed with the HSE as outlined in Section 38 of the Health Act 2004."