A NEW round of massive funding cutbacks at Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown has been met with anger, dismay and protests.
The HSE implemented what amounts to a 37 per cent reduction in the provision of staff and services at the Dublin 15 hospital from August 1.The cuts come in the wake of the hospital reporting a e4.5 million budget deficit up to the end of June.This came despite a cost containment plan designed to bring the deficit to within less than e2 million by the end of the year.HSE officials fear the deficit could spiral to as much as e10.7 million and told the hospital last month it was clear the containment plan wasn’t going to deliver.“It is essential that Connolly Hospital moves itself rapidly towards a sustainable cost base within available resources to meet the challenges of the coming years," the hospital was warned in an official communication from the HSE.Further budget cuts in health are expected in 2012 and the HSE says a mandatory cap has to be introduced to try and bring spending under control.However, the Irish Nurses’ and Midwives’ Organisation (INMO) believe that the cuts will inevitably result in a massive curtailment of health services for the remainder of this year.“This latest round of proposed financial cuts, which have been announced without any prior consultation with this organisation or other health unions, will undoubtedly result in major service reductions,” said INMO general secretary, Liam Doran.“Effectively the hospital will only provide emergency services if these cuts proceed.”The INMO has sought a meeting with senior management in the HSE to discuss what they’re calling “the most dramatic cut in health services proposed in decades” for the hospital.The cutbacks have also led to a wave of objections from local politicians, including Cllr Patrick Nulty (Lab) who described them as “draconian”.He said patient safety was being compromised and believes lives could be lost as a result.“Such draconian measures cannot proceed without hurting patient care and safety,” he said.“Everybody is conscious of the need to get more for less but as far as I’m concerned patient safety is a Rubicon that must not be crossed.”He added: “The bulk of the spending involved is for the replacement of doctors, nurses and locums who are only engaged when there is no alternative. They are therefore essential to front line services.“In my view this further curtailment will be at the expense of services. It can only be achieved through ward or A&E closures.“Minister Reilly cannot sit on his hands on this matter and must intervene directly.”Cllr Nulty called on the general public to challenge what he called “Government attempts to undermine hospital services throughout the capital”.
Dublin 15 Sinn Fein representative Paul Donnelly also slammed the cutbacks and helped organise a small protest outside the hospital last week."I am calling on the people of Dublin 15 to make a stand against these very serious cuts and I intend to mount a campaign of resistance,” he said.“I’m appealing to Health Minister James Reilly to reconsider this ludicrous proposal.”Mr Donnelly said a mass demonstration would take place on Wednesday (August 8) and he expected a turnout of hundreds of protestors.“The official 'Save Connelly Hospital' Facebook page has received a huge number of hits from people seeking a place to vent their frustrations,” he added.In a statement to Northside People, the HSE confirmed it had issued instructions to hospital management in the region to implement cost savings measures it says are needed to ensure they remain within budget.“Measures that must be implemented include caps on spending in relation to locum, agency, overtime, outsourced domestic and household costs,” the statement read.The HSE acknowledged that the cuts will bring “additional pressures to those already working hard in the system to deliver safe and effective patient services”.The statement added: “HSE Dublin North East must comply with its statutory obligations and remain within its allocated budget. Every effort will be made to do that in a way that has the least impact on patients and clients.”