By Councillor Mick Barry
HEALTH MINISTER Mary Harney and the HSE are planning ?1.2 billion worth of cutbacks this year and this is sure to be added to in the emergency budget scheduled for early April.
In recent weeks St. James’ Hospital and Tallaght Hospital have been told that their HSE funding for 2009 is to be slashed by ?12 million each and Beaumont Hospital has been told that its funding has been slashed by ?11 million. The HSE meeting in March is expected to announce proposals for closure of some smaller hospitals.
Already, HSE cuts are forcing the closure of nursing home facilities around the country. The HSE plan to shut Bethany House welfare home in Carlow moving its 25 residents elsewhere. This proposal has provoked a backlash with the establishment of a Save Bethany Campaign and a 50-strong blockade of the home to prevent the transfer of patients.
Other HSE plans include proposals to cut overtime, slash expenditure on agency staff, layoff temporary staff, close wards at weekends, cut home help hours and cut backs in A&E services.
Cutting A&E services is likely to prove particularly controversial. More than 4,000 people marched in Nenagh, Co Tipperary on 21 January in opposition to plans to turn the A&E at Nenagh General Hospital from a 24/7 A&E unit to a “nurse-led minor injury clinic”. The Nenagh proposal is just part of an overall HSE plan for the MidWest Region to move from three fully-fledged A&Es to just one. Similar proposals are likely to be outlined in the near future in relation to Dublin and Cork.
The national strike on 30 March should be the launch pad for a real fightback on issues facing working people and this must include a real fight against these vicious health cuts and for a properly funded public health system.