Louth Fianna Fáil TD Seamus Kirk has called for urgent intervention from the Health Minister James Reilly to avert a major care crisis at hospitals across Louth and Meath
Deputy Kirk has said he is particularly concerned by plans to introduce a sudden and complete ban on agency staff and overtime at the maternity department of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda from 1st September without any plan to ensure patient care is maintained at current levels. The HSE also plans to reduce the use of agency staff and overtime by 50% at all other Departments across Our Lady of Lourdes, Louth County Hospital and Our Lady’s hospital from 1st September. This will pave the way for 100% ban right across the hospital system in the North East from 1st October.
“I am appalled by the manner in which these sweeping cuts are being introduced. There is no doubt in my mind that there will be a severe impact on patient care and lives will be put at risk,” said Deputy Kirk.
“The HSE is far too reliant on agency staff and overtime to cover huge gaps in front-line staffing as a result of the Government’s woeful mismanagement of the public service retirement scheme. But to make such dramatic and sudden cuts while the ban on recruitment remains in place is extremely dangerous.
“It is no secret that the Health Minister James Reilly has made a complete mess of this year’s health budget. He ignored the warnings from the HSE Chief Executive Cathal Magee for months on end and has misled the public about the extent of the budget crisis. But his mistakes cannot be fixed bulldozing through to frontline services in our local hospitals. To put patients at risk in this way is highly irresponsible and is symptomatic of the Minister's failure to show appropriate leadership within his Department.
“In little over a week, the maternity Department at Our Lady of Lourdes will see the staff-patient ratio slip from the accepted minimum of 1-37 to approximately 1 staff member for every 43 patients. The hospital delivers between 3,700 and 4,000 babies each year. The Minister for Health James Reilly has a duty to explain to these expectant mothers how and why he is comfortable with this reduction in care levels.
“My understanding is that local HSE management are due to meet with health unions in the next few days. The fact that this meeting is only taking place just one week before the changes come into effect is extremely worrying. I am calling on Minister Reilly to personally attend these discussions. I am also asking the Minister to publically confirm whether similar slash and burn exercises are planned for other hospitals around the country.”