Fianna Fáil Frontbench Spokesperson Charlie McConalogue TD has described as “drastic and shocking” elements of the HSE service plan for 2012 signed off by the Minister for Health Dr. James Reilly. In particular Deputy McConalogue has raised serious concerns about the loss of up to 900 beds in Community Nursing Units across the country and the increase in waiting time (up to 9 months) for elective procedures.
Deputy McConalogue said: “There is no justification for the closure of these beds or the ‘small number of units’ which will be considered for total closure this year as outlined in the Service Plan. There is a lot of focus today on the prospect of a minimum of 555 beds closing but the Service Plan approved by Minister Reilly actually allows for a maximum of 898 beds to be closed across the country. This will come as deeply disturbing news to many older people and their families. It is an appalling way to treat the elderly, most of whom regard these community facilities as their home. It is also hard to see how there will be any significant benefit to the HSE as staff will have to be redeployed under the Croke Park Agreement to other facilities.
“Minister Reilly has again rowed back on a commitment given last November not to close community units. ‘I want to put on the record that I’m a believer in the public nursing home provision and I want to keep that and retain that but I want to see our costs addressed.’ – Minister Reilly, RTÉ’s This Week, Nov 21st 2011.
Deputy McConalogue continued, “We are particularly concerned about how the health service will manage the further reduction in staff with over 3,000 due to leave in the coming weeks and months. This Reilly Plan spells out very clearly today that ‘the bulk of the reductions that the HSE is required to deliver in 2012 will impact increasingly directly on frontline services’.
“The public and the health service itself are not prepared for cuts on this scale and today’s Plan actually includes a dozen risk factors that could see further cuts being imposed through the year.
“The Service Place also points out that ‘decreased hospital activity will impact particularly on elective procedures’ in hospital. The Minister for Health has actually approved a plan that increases waiting times for procedures. In conjunction with the Special Delivery Unit, the HSE will ensure no one will wait longer than nine months whereas before Minister Reilly decided to cut the National Treatment Purchase Fund, the average waiting time for procedures was just three months.
“There are also very serious issues around the Fair Deal scheme and the Minister must be open and upfront about how the scheme will be managed and funded through 2012. If the Fair Deal scheme is allowed to collapse while home help hours are cut and public nursing home beds are closed the elderly will rightly wonder what they have done to deserve the treatment they are suffering at the hands of Minister James Reilly.”