Laois-Offaly Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen 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, which includes a cut of almost €20 million this year in funding for public nursing homes in the Midlands. Overall, funding for the health services in the region will 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 months.
Deputy Cowen said: “Older people are the biggest losers in this plan. The Minister for Health James Reilly has approved a cut of almost €20 million for nursing homes across the Midlands. This means that a significant number of beds will be closed at public nursing homes in Offaly, Laois, Westmeath and Longford.
“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.
“In addition to this, the Midlands Regional Hospital in Tullamore is also facing a budget cut this year of over €2.2 million. So we will now have a situation where nursing home beds are closed, pushing older patients onto the hospital system which is already under serious pressure and is now facing further cutbacks. This means longer waiting lists for patients and increased overcrowding.
“This policy is extremely short-sighted and puts patients at risk. To target older patients in nursing homes in this way, while also cutting funding to regional hospitals, is very damaging in the long-run. There are serious questions arising out of this HSE service plan and patients deserve answers urgently.”