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Patients face more delays as HSE cuts 54,000 places

SOME 54,000 patient admissions are to be cut from the depleted health service.

The cuts mean that people on public waiting lists face even longer delays than ever before.

A draft service plan by the HSE shows that the group intends to cut inpatient admissions for individuals who need at least one overnight stay from 595,000 to 541,000.

James Reilly, Fine Gael health spokesman, said: "It is a travesty to describe this as a service plan when it is in fact a blueprint to cut service to patients in need.

"In reality, this means that more people will be waiting in pain for hip operations, knee procedures, gall bladder operations and pain management."

He went on to predict that health professionals' ability to diagnose critical illness would be drastically affected.

"Sadly, some with terminal conditions will be left to linger in pain. Many more people waiting for medical investigations to discover if they have a serious illness like cancer will be put on the long finger," he said.

Although the plan involves hospitals increasing the number of patients they treat each day by 769 to 679,510, closing beds and reducing the number of inpatients will affect those waiting for a bed for diagnostic tests.



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At the moment there are 18,000 people on waiting lists with 6,000 of those delayed for six months.

The plan also expects to cut the number of A&E admissions by diverting patients to community services instead. The board of the HSE is meeting today to discuss the new cost-cutting measures.

After the board has made a decision, Minister for Health Mary Harney will receive the motion and has the power to accept or alter it.

While the HSE is set to receive €14.8bn this year, another €1bn will have to be generated through pay cuts, and an increase in charges such as the prescription item charge for medical card holders beginning in April.

Approximately €141m will be received from drug companies, but the draft document shows the HSE's concern that this sum may be reduced by medical negligence payouts, and the potential of higher sums being awarded to people who successfully appeal the money they received under the nursing home repayment scheme.

Some 1,500 staff members are also expected to retire this year, costing an additional €167m from its budget.

it will have to stay within a staff ceiling of 109,600 for 2010. Due to the moratorium put on staff recruitment, additional pressures on existing staff members are expected to affect the HSE's ability to deliver care.

cmcbride@herald.ie


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