As HSE West faces a deficit of €90 million by the end of the year, there has been a range of proposals to cut costs put forward in recent weeks. A report from UK consultants, Mott MacDonald, suggest up to 1,000 temporary jobs could be cut and even a whole hospital could be closed as part of a plan to save between €44 and €54 million.
Since then, up to 5,000 people protested in Letterkenny, Co. Donegal at the start of August against threatened cuts of €8 million which would lead to around 120 job losses, ward closures and the downgrading of services.
A 2,000-strong demonstration to oppose any downgrading of hospital services at Portiuncula also took place in Ballinasloe, Co Galway on 17 August. The 197-bed hospital serves east Galway and south Roscommon and is faced with an end of year budget over-run of between €5 million and €7 million.
The HSE is planning to cut €24 million from University College Hospital Galway’s (UCHG) budget and more than €18 million from community services. If these cuts are implemented, it would mean the devastation of services and jobs in the area. On 25 August, around 100 health workers protested against these plans. A joint union campaign, entitled Save Our Services (SOS) was also launched.
The Galway says No to Health Cuts campaign is also campaigning against the cuts to Galway hospitals. This campaign was only initiated recently and involves individual patients and members of the community as well as political organisations and trade union officials. Members of the Socialist Party in Galway are also working with the campaign. A protest is likely to take place in September in Galway City.
In order to defeat the cuts, a strong campaign of hospital staff, patients and the community needs to be built in Galway as well as the other areas that are affected by these cuts. These campaigns should then link up to together fight the government’s plans. Protest will be very important but strike actions by hospital workers would really show strong the opposition to the government’s plans and would be key in forcing the government to back down.