FINANCE Minister Michael Noonan has warned “there is no extra money” for hospitals that fail to stay within budget as the sceptre of bed closures and cancelled operations at the MidWestern Regional Hospital surfaced over the weekend.
Senior doctors making up the Medical Board of the region’s acute hospital network have again written to the HSE of risks the patient safety - this time over a shortage of junior doctors. It is the second time this year the board has warned that the situation at the Regional Hospital is critical. Earlier this year, the board, which is chaired by Dr Alexander Fraser, complained that the resources promised by the Fianna Fail-Green government for the reconfiguration process had “not been forthcoming” and had led to chronic overcrowding in Dooradoyle and the curtailment of elective surgery.
Reconfiguration has seen the centralisation to Limerick Regional of emergency and acute surgical procedures from Ennis and Nenagh and the medical lead in that process, consultant Paul Burke, is reported to have written to Minister Noonan in recent weeks outlining ongoing difficulties at the hospital.
Consultant posts promised for the region by the previous government were not being filled as the HSE in the MidWest struggles to stay within budget.
“Our only options now to reduce spending are to reduce elective surgical activity, close operating theatres, reduce drug costs and possibly close beds,” Mr Burke is reported to have warned in his letter to the Minister.
Speaking over the weekend, Minister Noonan acknowledged he had received the submission but said those running hospitals were aware of what the budgets set out by his predecessor Brian Lenihan were.
“There is an allocation made within the HSE, they have to live within those budgets and there is no departing from that.”
He said the Government was prepared to listen to cases being made by individual hospitals as long as they didn’t incur additional costs.
“The message I’d like to give out is that there is no extra money to go into the budgets.”
Efforts by the HSE MidWest to remain within budget this year have already led to the the closure of 13 beds and one operating theatre at the Mid-Western Regional Orthopaedic Hospital in Croom.
The HSE hopes that the €2.1 million these cuts – which came into effect at the beginning of the month - will save will help the region’s acute hospital network break even. But it is anticipated that these cuts will lead to delays in over 400 surgical cases at Croom Hospital.