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Cutbacks hit 75,000 hospital appointments


New figures showing that more than 75,000 hospital appointments have been cancelled over the past three years reveal the pressure on the health service from cutbacks and growing patient numbers.

The Health Service Executive says the cancellations are mainly due to closure of wards for cost-containment measures and a lack of capacity caused by emergency admissions.

At least 25,317 day-case and 50,433 inpatient appointments were cancelled in 2010, 2011 and the first 10 months of this year, the figures supplied by the HSE show. The total is, in fact, higher, since about 13 of the 40 hospitals do not supply figures regularly to the HSE.

Emergency workload

Sinn Féin health spokesman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said the figures reflected a system struggling with the demand-led emergency workload after staff budget cutbacks. “They simply fly in the face of Minister for Health James Reilly’s so-called reform agenda,” he said.

The Irish Patients’ Association expressed concern that the health of some could deteriorate before new appointments were fixed.

“The cancellation of appointments, especially at short notice, can cause huge disruption for patients,” spokesman Stephen McMahon said.

“In some cases, people will have had to make arrangements for the care of a family member and travel long distances to fulfil the appointment.”

He said that, separate from any cancellations, over 350,000 patients were on waiting lists for a first hospital appointment. The data for this year shows 6,311 day-case and 12,772 inpatient appointments were cancelled to the end of October. The figures also reveal huge variations in cancellations in different hospitals.

St James’s Hospital in Dublin accounts for almost one-third of the total, with 21,782 cancelled day-case and inpatient cancellations over the three-year period. The vast majority were for inpatients .

Sick children

Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin, which treats sick children, accounted for 18,780 cancellations. In contrast, only 140 cancellations are recorded for Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe, Co Galway.

Dr Reilly is due to unveil his plans shortly for a radical reorganisation of the health service through the grouping of hospitals in different regions.

However, critics claim the process will see smaller hospitals downgraded by grouping them with larger hospitals.

Publication of Dr Reilly’s proposals has been delayed until after Christmas.

via Cutbacks hit 75,000 hospital appointments – The Irish Times – Mon, Dec 17, 2012.

via Cutbacks hit 75,000 hospital appointments – The Irish Times – Mon, Dec 17, 2012.

Closure of over 1,200 public nursing home beds criticised –


ABOUT 1,200 beds in public nursing homes have been closed since the Government came to power, according to new figures supplied by the Health Service Executive.

The cuts were criticised yesterday by Sinn Féin and trade union Siptu, who both accused Minister for Health James Reilly of favouring private care of older people over public facilities.

They coincide with mounting concern among policymakers over the future needs for residential care caused by an ageing population. Earlier this week, a report found that every day for the next decade an additional seven people would need long-term residential care. The number of over-85s in the population will more than double over the next decade.

There has also been a slowdown in the provision of private nursing home beds due to uncertainty about funding and difficulties in raising bank finance.

Sinn Féin health spokesman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, who obtained the figures from the HSE, said the situation was even worse than he had anticipated.

“With over 1,200 public nursing home beds taken out of the system over a 20-month period, and with further bed closures signalled, we are certainly facing a crisis in services for older people,” Mr Ó Caoláin said.

He accused Dr Reilly of “burning the candle at both ends” by imposing savage cuts on home help hours and homecare packages while at the same time closing down public nursing home beds and diminishing the capacity of long-stay public residential facilities.

“This Minister has no strategy or plan to protect our public health services and even less regard for the needs of older people,” he said.

Siptu spokesman Paul Bell accused the Government of abandoning public nursing care and said a situation where 75 per cent of beds were provided by the private sector was “unbalanced”. He called on the Dáil Public Accounts Committee to investigate the costs of the Government’s strategy of “divesting itself of responsibility for care of older people”.

According to the HSE, 443 public nursing home beds were closed this year up to August, while 758 were closed last year. A further 112 beds have been identified for closure later this year.

Bed closures include 230 in HSE South region, 199 in Dublin/North-East, 322 in West and 450 in Dublin/Mid-Leinster.

The HSE attributed the closures to service plan commitments, staffing reductions and the inability of some homes to meet compliance requirements of the Health Information and Quality Authority. It said a number of new public long-stay beds have come on stream in new units in Cork, Navan, Dublin, Tralee and Mullingar.

via Closure of over 1,200 public nursing home beds criticised – The Irish Times – Sat, Oct 27, 2012.

via Closure of over 1,200 public nursing home beds criticised – The Irish Times – Sat, Oct 27, 2012.

HSE to implement home help cuts of €8m –


THE HSE is to begin implementing highly controversial cuts in home-help services.

The cuts were first announced five weeks ago as part of an overall initiative aimed at generating more than €130 million in savings. However, implementation was largely put on hold in many parts of the State pending further assessment by the Department of Health and at political level.

The HSE said last night that about €8 million in spending on home help hours would be cut between now and the end of the year, adding that it intended to minimise the impact of the cuts.

“Decisions in relation to the provision of home help hours will continue to be based on a review of individual needs, and no current recipient of this service and who has an assessed need for the service will be without a service,” it said in a statement.

The amount to be cut from the home help budget under the announcement made last night is less than the €10.8 million reduction in spending it announced originally last month, which would have resulted in some 600,000 home help hours being cut, on top of a 500,000-hour cut imposed earlier this year. The effects of the reduced spending cut was not available last night.

A HSE spokesman said the measures to reduce home help hours were being implemented by the regions over recent weeks, although the total amount to be cut was less than initially announced.

However, senior health service figures had repeatedly told The Irish Times in recent weeks that the cuts had largely been put on hold following the Government’s U-turn on cuts for the disabled some weeks ago.

The HSE said last night there were 11,000,000 home-help hours provided annually, with a budget of €195 million.

Yesterday the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children called for a halt to cuts in home help.

Sinn Féin Health spokesman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said he had the unanimous backing of the Oireachtas committee for his motion calling on Minister for Health James Reilly not to proceed with cuts to home help and homecare.

Home helps are planning to protest about the cuts in Dublin later this month.

The HSE is expected to begin intensifying the implementation of plans to reduce the number of homecare packages. However, this is likely to be at a lower level than the 200 originally announced.

The HSE said it had a statutory responsibility to live within the budget voted by the Oireachtas. “In this context, the HSE developed a range of proposals for discussion which would reduce spending and yield cash between now and the end of 2012.”

“It is a priority for the HSE to minimise the impact on patients and clients of any spending reductions. Many of the proposals therefore focused on areas that do not have a direct patient impact such as furniture, education and training, office expenses, laptops and PCs, travel and subsistence etc.”

via HSE to implement home help cuts of €8m – The Irish Times – Fri, Oct 05, 2012.

via HSE to implement home help cuts of €8m – The Irish Times – Fri, Oct 05, 2012.

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