HSE Cuts Slammed

Where there are fears being expressed regionally over the long-term provision of health care - such as local politicians taking issue over the intake of student nurses at the Letterkenny Institute of Technology - which may have to be cut by 20% in the coming year, a national alert has also been sounded.

It emerged today that health unions and patient campaign groups have become concerned about plans by the Health Service Executive (HSE) to review full-time A&E services at eight Dublin hospitals and at a further three in Cork.

The details are said to be contained in the Executive's 2009 service plan, which has yet to be published, but has been seen by RTÉ News.

According to the broadcaster today, the Irish Hospital Consultants Association believes that while 24-hour accident and emergency services can not be provided at every hospital, any replacement services must be as least as good as what currently exists.

RTÉ said that the association's Deputy Head Donal Duffy wants to see more services rather than less.

However, he accepted that some rationalisation of services was needed and predicted that next year would be a very difficult one for patients, either way.

Meanwhile, the Irish Patients Association says it hopes the HSE's plan is not a resurrection of the 2003 Hanly Report.

The Labour Party has also called for the immediate publication of the plan.

Its health spokesperson Jan O' Sullivan said closing full-time A&E units, particularly without providing additional resources to other units, would simply make a bad situation worse.

The leaked document for 2009 - which has been approved by the Health Minister - reveals that the HSE intends to cut inpatient admissions, the average length of hospital stay, and outpatient numbers, while increasing day case procedures.

The measures also envisage rationalising A&E services in the mid-west and the provision of 24/7 emergency services by three paediatric hospitals in Dublin.

Around €530m in savings is being sought next year.

Meanwhile, back in Co Donegal, the North West MEP Marian Harkin has branded the cutting of education nurse posts in the region as absolutely crazy.

There has been a 25% cut of general nursing places and a 40% cut for intellectual disability nursing in St Angela's in Sligo, she complained.

Coupled with the slashing of numbers in Letterkenny and Castlebar, the North West is once again being discriminated against according to Ms Harkin.

Marian Harkin is calling on the HSE to reinstate the intake of student numbers in Sligo, Letterkenny and Castlebar as a vital measure in ensuring the future health prospects of the people in the North West.


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