SERVICES at University Hospital Limerick are likely to be curtailed even further between now and the end of the year as management attempt to rein in spending.
Figures published by the Health Service Executive (HSE) this Wednesday show the hospital’s financial situation has deteriorated even further.
At the end of July, it was more than €17 million over budget making it the worst performing hospital in the country. This compares to a €14.6 million budget deficit at the end of June.
According to the monthly performance report, the hospital had spent €105 million by the end of July – 19.4% above budget.
If it is to stay within budget this year, management will only have €46 million to work with - less than half what was spent in the first seven months of the year.
Across the UL Hospitals Group, the total budget overrun was running at almost €18.5 million at the end of July with just Croom and Ennis Hospitals coming in on budget.
A spokesperson for the group said “the scale of the challenge is significant and was predicted in the 2014 Service Plan.”
In another twist, the HSE figures show that more than €15 million in private charges were owed to UHL by private insurers at the end of July.
Separately, pressure is growing on management to address the growing waiting lists at UHL.
At the end of July the number of people on the outpatient waiting list had risen by 526 to 14,433. According to the report, 7,908 of them had been on the waiting list for more than three months.
Almost 1,500 adults were on waiting lists for inpatient procedures along with 337 children.
Reacting to the report, Deputy Niall Collins says the Government has to “sit up and take seriously the warning signs as lives are literally being put at risk”.
In a week where people attending the emergency department have had to wait nine hours to see a doctor, the Limerick TD says the situation at the hospital is at crisis point. “It is clear from the budget overrun and the waiting lists that the Government is not funding the health services in Limerick adequately”.
The UL Hospitals Group says its activities and finances can only be viewed in the context of the overall group which has had ongoing challenges in attracting and retaining medical staff. As a result it has incurred significant costs associated with the hiring of agency staff in order to ensure service continuity.
The spokesperson said there have been a number of significant developments in 2014 including the development of a new Critical Care unit and increased bed capacity at UHL and St John’s to alleviate pressure at the emergency department.
The UL Hospital Group is currently without a chief executive following Ann Doherty’s resignation earlier in the year to take up a position at Cork City Council.