New fears over €4 million Portiuncula budget cuts

There are renewed fears for the future of Portiuncula Hospital this week with claims that the facility is facing a €4.75 million shortfall which could place services under serious threat.

Deputy Denis Naughten said this week that the hospital is facing a €2.5 million cut in December’s budget, which on top of the budget shortfall for 2010 will mean the hospital will start next year some €4.75 million down.

The HSE said this week that it is too early to predict the hospital’s budget for next year, as the HSE Service Plan is not yet complete.

“The Service Plan for the HSE is still being drafted and will be presented to the Minister for Health by the end of the year. The Minister has then 21 days to approve it. Therefore it is too early to make any comments or speculate on hospital budgets for 2011 as the process is still underway,” said a HSE spokesperson yesterday.

However, Deputy Naughten is convinced that Portiuncula, along with other hospitals in the region, are facing a bleak 2011.

“This is an 11 per cent cut to the budget of €45m, which was previously cut from a budget of €55m for operating the hospital in 2009. When you consider that 70 per cent of the total budget is used to pay staff wages, the scale of the cuts will have serious implications for the services presently provided to the local community,” he said.

“The story at Roscommon Hospital is not any better with a shortfall in funding of €2.8m, which will also put increased pressure on emergency and diagnostic services at Portiuncula Hospital.

“These cuts will only lead to further pressure being placed on Galway University Hospital which itself is facing a budget cut of over €11m in 2011, with a carryover of €19m from 2010.

“It is clear the agenda here is to starve Portiuncula Hospital of the vital funding that is needed to safely maintain local services. Then that same safety issue will be used to close and relocate services to Galway.”

PRO of the Portiuncula Hospital Action Group, Cllr Johnny Walsh, says he will be keeping a very close eye on this year’s budget.

“We will be watching the budget very carefully. Up to now we have protected all services through the local action of the Hospital Action Group, the latest being a major threat to oncology.

“We will be watching every move regarding any possible threat. As far as I am concerned we are going to have an uphill battle for the next two years. Portiuncula serves east Galway, Athlone, and parts of Westmeath, Roscommon, Offaly, and Tipperary. If there is any major threat we would have to take to the streets again.”

Local Fine Gael councillor Jerry Broderick added that “things are not good with Portiuncula”.

“The HSE are saying they are not going to cut services, but I don’t believe them for a second. People in the town are terribly worried, both patients and workers.”

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