Wicklow Fianna Fáil Cllr Pat Casey has said he is gravely concerned about the impact on local health services of significant budget cuts this year.
The HSE revealed its service plan for Dublin-Mid Leinster this week with funding for the health services in the region to be slashed by €647 million this year, or 4.9%. It has also been confirmed that 990 health service workers in the region will retire by the end of this month.
Cllr Casey commented: “It has been confirmed that the budget for community hospitals in Dublin South West and Kildare/West Wicklow is to be cut by a massive €22 million this year. We are given no indication where the cuts will take place and this places a huge burden on the front line staff throughout Wicklow, not knowing if they will lose their jobs this year.
“It is disappointing that this is the only Regional Plan which does not detail Community Nursing Units bed closures. How many of the 232 proposed in the National Plan will be implemented and where? The final figure will depend on the number of staff who will retire during the year but the majority of the beds identified are based on consolidation and reduction of public bed capacity in Public Long Stay Units.
“Buried in the document is the news that 990 staff expected to leave the region, this will have a direct impact on hospitals throughout Wicklow. There is no detail on where and what replacements will be recruited. The single biggest risk we face in 2012 is lack of capacity to meet real health and personal social services needs in the face of reduced funding and availability of staff.
Cllr Casey added: “There will be reductions of 4.5% nationally in the level of home help hours, which could mean up to 600 people could lose their home helps nationwide.
“The HSE and Minister Reilly have refused to confirm what nursing homes will be worst hit. This has created a sense of fear and confusion among patients and their families, who are worried that their nursing home or community hospital is facing downgrade or closure. I am calling on the Minister and the HSE to provide some clarity on this as a matter of urgency.
“This policy is extremely short-sighted and puts patients at risk. Older patients are being targeted in nursing homes, while funding is being cut to regional hospitals.
There are serious questions arising out of this HSE service plan and patients deserve answers urgently.”