University Hospital Galway has been forced to slash its budget for aggressive cancer treatment for end of life patients by €3 million in a bid to address the €22 million overall budget deficit it is facing this year, a local politician has claimed.
Fine Gael senator Fidelma Healy Eames says this reduction is one of many which will impact on vital services at the west’s flagship hospital. Others cuts include €1m to orthopaedics (eg, 200 hip operations, knee procedures, etc ), €1m to prosthetic provision, eg, braces, etc, €1/2m to laboratory tests, €1/2m leading to extended theatre closures which will mean emergency procedures only and a 50 per cent reduction in gynaecological services.
She is calling on Health Minister Harney to address what she terms the “critical and life threatening” underfunding at UHG. The hospital has yet to receive the €12 million funding for cancer drugs and 30 additional staff promised as part of its designation as a cancer centre of excellence, she maintains.
“UHG has historically been the victim of underfunding. It is now facing a €22 million budget deficit this year and is required by the HSE to make cuts to address this deficit. One of the major contributory factors to this budgetary situation is the fact that UHG has not yet received €12 million for cancer drugs since the hospital was designated a cancer centre, despite the fact that this was part of the resourcing promised to deliver on a cancer centre of excellence serving one million people in the west and north west (spanning from Donegal to north Tipperary ).
“In addition the hospital is struggling to cope without 30 promised cancer posts which have yet to be filled, putting staff under immense pressure in providing for the medical needs of their patients leading to longer waiting lists and the cancellation of important theatre appointments. The situation is so grave that in order to address this crippling budget deficit, as well as the staff shortages, the hospital has been forced to cut back on vital services including a €3 million cut to aggressive cancer treatment for end of life patients.”
The Oranmore senator says this information has been passed on to the HSE yet Professor Tom Keane [the former national cancer chief who is believed to be discussing terms and conditions for the position of HSE boss] and Minister Mary Harney have been “deafeningly silent”.
‘Meanwhile cancer patients in the west and north west are seriously at risk of less than optimum care. UCH services one million people and despite the fact that the risks to patients’ health were highlighted last year by the hospital’s former manager, Bridget Howley, the underfunding has not yet been addressed.
“If the funding for drugs and additional staff, that were promised to Galway upon being designated a centre of excellence, are not delivered cancer patients in the west and north west will be denied critical cancer treatment.
I am outraged with the Minister for Health and the HSE’s neglect of this critical sitaution in our main public hospital in Galway, relied upon by one million citizens.”
This underfunding is posing a “serious risk” to patient care and life as well as placing staff at UHG under “enormous strain”, she insists.
“It is not right nor just. The non-delivery of the centre of cancer excellence deal plus the historical underfunding at UHG has brought about this problem. A comparable hospital on the east coast, St James’, gets €100m more in funding. We in Galway are being shortchanged.”
Senator Healy Eames called on the Health Minister to address this underfunding during the Order of Business in the Senate.
“I called on Minister Harney to address the critical and life threatening underfunding at UHG and to provide the staff and funds that have been promised, including vital end of life care. As a matter of urgency UHG must be given the €12 million for cancer drugs.”