The HSE is to continue with its controversial health service cutbacks policy, it was announced today.
While it was originally intended that its recruitment freeze would only be for the duration of September, the HSE now says it current financial situation now warrants an extension of the recruitment ban until the end of October.
While the plan has to date led to cutbacks in jobs, beds and some services, the HSE and the Minister for Health has denied that the savings measures are directly affecting patient care or frontline services.
However, opposition parties, health service unions and others have claimed the cutbacks are affecting frontline care.
The Minister has claimed the cutbacks are marginal and has said it is up to the HSE to manage its budget.
Today's HSE statement gives a less emphatic denial than before that frontline services have been affected by the recruitment ban.
It said there are 'some limited critical or exceptional circumstances where the appointment of frontline service staff may be necessary. '
The HSE said a sub-group of key managers has been put in place 'to ensure that the appointment of staff in critical care areas can proceed' in spite of the recruitment ban.
This group is to consider such applications on a weekly basis this month, commencing next week.
The HSE has also listed four areas which would be special exemptions from the recruitment ban, including staff to operate new community nursing units at Cherry Orchard in Dublin and staff required to open a new admissions unit at the Central Mental Hospital.
Health service unions are likely to seek an emergency meeting of the Labour Relations Commisison as a result of the continuation of the employment freeze.