Health Minister James Reilly’s policy to force Letterkenny Hospital to stick to a significantly reduced budget this year will result in longer waiting times for patients, according to Donegal North East TD Charlie McConalogue. Deputy McConalogue told the Dáil last night that patients will be forced to wait even longer for operations and treatment, inevitably leaving many in prolonged pain.


“Letterkenny General Hospital is this year being forced to operate from a budget of €95 million – a drop of €8 million from €103 million last year.  This combined with the fact that the hospital budget overran by a figure of €4.5 million last year shows just what an impossible task is being asked of the hospital if Minister Reilly refuses to sanction any overrun on the allocated budget in 2011,” said Deputy McConalogue. 


Speaking on a Dáil motion opposing the Fine Gael/Labour Government’s health cuts, Deputy McConalogue said it was impossible to expect Letterkenny Hospital to continue to provide the same level of patient treatments in such circumstances.  


“The hospital is currently facing into a budget overrun of over €6 million this year if it continues on its current path.  To meet the Ministers demand of not exceeding €95 million, there will inevitably be a severe impact on services during the second half of this year. 


“Letterkenny Hospital is unusual in that 90% of its work is not elective. The hospital has no other option but to carry out this work, as the bulk of it involves emergencies, surgeries that can’t be postponed and other cases requiring immediate treatment.


“In light of this, the hospital will be forced to make budget cuts to outpatient clinics, non emergency procedures and elective surgeries. Such an approach would simply leave people waiting even longer and in continued pain while their operations and treatments are postponed. 


“I believe the first priority we must have is ensuring that people’s health is put first. It is simply not on to force patients who are waiting for much needed treatment to wait even longer, when they need that treatment now. 


“Minister Reilly must meet with hospital managers and staff to assess the impact of his hospital cutbacks.  Patients must be the first priority when budgets allocations are made.”