herald

Tuesday 26 September 2017

Sorry about the health cuts - we're bankrupt

fears: 'The old and sick will suffer' as Reilly swings axe

Health Minister James Reilly sought to defend severe cuts in health by declaring: "This country is bankrupt. We are in terrible trouble."

Health Minister James Reilly sought to defend severe cuts in health by declaring: “This country is bankrupt. We are in terrible trouble.”

Swingeing health cuts will hit care of the sick and elderly as the Government presses ahead with plans to slash a further €750m.

Stark figures emerging from the HSE plan for 2012 were “worst-case scenarios” which would be mitigated where possible, said the minister today.

The cuts will result in hundreds of public nursing home beds being axed, cancer screening being further delayed, cuts in the numbers of treatments available, home help being cut back, and 3,000 jobs jettisoned.

The cuts approved by Dr Reilly will result in:

* The postponement of the national bowel cancer screening until the end of the year, causing concern from the Irish Cancer Society because of lower survival rates in Ireland compared with other EU countries;

* More than 500,000 fewer hours of home help will be available to vulnerable people in their homes;

* Some 17,000 fewer patients will be treated in hospitals;

* Fewer day care services, respite relief for hard-pressed families, and a cut in the personal assistants that help people with disabilities;

* A 7pc cut in child protection and family support services;

* More than 550 public nursing home beds being scrapped with elderly residents being forced out into private nursing homes;

* A cut in beds for psychiatric patients;

* 3,300 posts being axed as medical staff and nurses take retirement packages – there will be 1,100 fewer nurses in Irish hospitals.

Mr Reilly told RTE’s Morning Ireland he would not know the precise figures of where all the staff will be lost but a clearer picture of the losses would be available next month.

The new cuts come in the wake of the €1.75bn cut in health funding in the past two years.

HSE chief executive Cathal Magee warned that frontline services would suffer and the 2012 shortfall would be more difficult to cope with because it comes after two tough years of spending cuts.

Delays in new colon cancer screening until September will give rise to fears of more avoidable deaths taking place.

Another 1,270 people will be given nursing home subsidies under the €1bn funding for Fair Deal, but the money could run out during the year.

Age Action spokesman Eamon Timmins said the scale of cuts to home help and the closure of so many public nursing home beds would “undoubtedly be felt by the sickest of older people”.

He said: “Without home help service, frail older people will struggle, and those requiring round-the-clock nursing home care will end up being admitted to acute hospitals for their care if a nursing home bed is not available.”

Today, a health care expert said past cuts had been implemented relatively well but there was now a limit to the amount of further efficiencies that could be made.

Stephen Thomas of the Centre of Health Policy at Trinity College,, said more pay cuts would be sought if budgets continues to be reduced.

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