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Hospitals braced for further service cuts
[Posted: Sat 06/08/2011 by Niall Hunter, Editor www.irishhealth.com]
Hospitals are now facing major service cutbacks, with latest HSE figures showing that their deficits are continuing to grow as the health service faces financial meltdown.
The HSE is now in the red overall to the tune of just over €208 million and hospital deficits have now increased to €124 million.
The HSE's latest monthly performance report for the end of June shows there has been a worsening in the health executive's financial position. The overall deficit in May stood at €170 million and the total hospitals deficit was €120 million.
Limerick Regional Hospital now has a massive deficit of nearly €15 million while Dublin's Tallaght Hospital has a €9.4 million deficit. Our Lady of Lourdes in Drogheda has a deficit of nearly €6 million, while St Vincent's in Dublin and Cork University Hospitals have also overspent by around €6 million each.
The report says there was no improvement in the hospital expenditure situation in June and hospitals have been told to cut back on activity in order to control their spending.
Meanwhile, HSE management, in a meeting with health unions, said the health service faces a €400 million deficit at the end of the year if the necessary cuts are not made.
The HSE says its new blanket ban on the filling of practically all staff vacancies, announced in last month's performance report as a new savings measure, has seen requests for some exemptions. These, the HSE said, will be 'forensically examined' in terms of its break-even plan.
Staff organisations are expressing concern about the new recruitment pause having a serious effect on frontline services throughout the health system. The new hiring ban includes vital posts previously exempt from the 2009 recruitment moratorium.
Exceptions are only being made to the recruitment freeze in 'life or death' situations.
Over 1,000 posts in frontline services which were in the process of being filled are now being frozen until the HSE's financial position is reviewed again next month. Replacement and new posts where contracts have already been offered are expected to be filled , however.
Cutbacks in the coming months will include reductions in the number of operations and further bed closures, many of which will be for extended periods, and overtime restrictions. There will also be major cuts in community care. The HSE is planning to cut back on agency staff already employed to plug service gaps.
A HSE spokesperson said it is continuing with its recruitment pause in August based on the June expenditure data.
The HSE said the recuitment freeze would be reviewed in September when the July spending data was available. It said it would continue in the meantime to process, screen and panel applications for the posts as set out in its service plan. "During this time, arrangements are in place for exceptions (to the recruitment pause) to address critical service risk."
Meanwhile, the HSE's June performance report shows that cash-strapped hospital services are trying to cope with increasing demands.
Emergency admissions are 6,249 more than planned so far this year while there have been 9,410 more day case treatments over planned activity levels.
The report says hospitals have been instructed 'to realign their activity levels with service plan targets in order to control their spend for the remainder of the year'.
The figures show increasing pressure on beds. The number of delayed discharge patients occupying acute beds as they could not access alternative care grew to 804 at the end of June, compared to 654 at the end of May.
This increase is likely due to the freeze at the time in the processing of nursing home support applications under the Fair Deal scheme.
The figures for June show that the national average ED waiting time for patients who needed admission was 9.3 hours. Less than half of patients needing admission are being admitted within the target time of six hours from registration in emergency departments.
|anony Posted: 05/08/2011 10:18|
It is all going down hill and the Minister has lost control. He talks nice words but the actions at ground level and the illogical decision making is totally different. Policy needs to change and change fast and power must be taken from the vested interests who are driving their own agenda.
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