Cuts to regional hospital revealed

A CONSULTANT in Waterford Regional Hospital has described as “inane” the decision by HSE South to close three operating theatres.

A CONSULTANT in Waterford Regional Hospital has described as “inane” the decision by HSE South to close three operating theatres.

The cut is one of a whole range to be implemented by HSE South as the first part of a €14 million cost cutting measure. Over the first six months of this year HSE South will cut services, medication and beds from Waterford Regional Hospital.

In detailed documents leaked to the Kilkenny People, the impact the proposed cuts will have on patients from across the South East in accessing cancer services, orthopaedic services, rheumatic services, cardiac services, gastroenterology and even the availability of intensive care beds were laid out.

For each cut planned by HSE South ,they have estimated the impact that it will have on patients. The most shocking findings listed under the “Service impact” include a cap on interventional radiology that will result in “potential delayed access to treatment for patients attending cancer services,” while a decision to cease regional Implantable Cardiac device Service will result in “increased morbidity” for patients requiring devices implanted in their hearts such as pace makers.

In order to save €250,000, the HSE plans to restrict access to treatment for patients with “debilitating arthritic conditions”. The decision was taken due to the high cost of the medication used to treat the condition.

The cost of medication to treat asthma in adults and children will also be restricted. Xolair medication, which is used to treat moderate to severe asthma, will no longer be available. The HSE document notes that there is no alternative treatment available in Ireland.

The closure of the operating theatres will result in longer waiting lists and longer hospital stays for all patients. The effect on waiting lists will be further compounded by the closure of an entire surgical ward. The closure of the Surgical 5 ward will result in the loss of 25 surgical beds.

Other plans to save money that will not have as detrimental an effect on patients include the replacement of a water boiler in the hospital; increasing the cost of car parking which they estimate will generate €95,000, reduce stationary costs at a saving of €50,000 and reduce laundry and catering costs saving €40,000.

In a letter accompanying the leaked plan the hospital consultant highlighted the difference in funding received by Irish hospitals. The consultant said Waterford Regional Hospital, relative to hospitals of a similar size has a smaller budget. The consultant stated that “St Vincent’s 2009 budget was €214 million to the €145 million in Waterford. “The HSE to date however has applied uniform percentage cuts to all hospitals thereby disadvantaging those that had no fat in the system.”

The consultant also stated that the loss of nursing staff and the reduction in availability of surgical theatres has lowered the morale of all of the hospitals workers. In particular the consultant pointed to the nursing shortage as “causing serious alarm.”