A leading local nursing union official is calling for a crisis summit on the health services to be convened immediately.
Noreen Muldoon, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation’s industrial relations officer in the west, insists the public health service cannot protect frontline services if funding is cut by a further €600 million to €1billion, as announced by Health Minister Mary Harney recently.
Ms Muldoon says patient care will be severely “compromised and frontline services significantly curtailed” if this level of budget cuts is introduced in an uncontrolled manner.
“The health summit, which should be chaired by the Minister, would allow all stakeholders come to the table and be challenged to produce new initiatives which would protect essential services in the context of our current economic situation,” she says.
“In return the Government would have to acknowledge that there is a minimum level of funding required, in the short term, to maintain services required by ill and vulnerable people, which cannot be compromised or removed.”
Mary Tierney, a local volunteer with the national patient advocacy group Patient Focus, says it is “very concerned” about anything which impacts negatively on patients and their families.
“Some patients, particularly those with long term illnesses, have expressed concern [about further health cuts]. This is an additional fear and a potential cause of stress on top of their medical concerns.
“We would urge dialogue where possible [between the various stakeholders] to provide the best care for all patients.”
She warns that any reduction in frontline services will have an adverse impact on patient care.
Many patients have cancelled their private health insurance cover due to the economic downturn which will have a ripple effect on public hospital waiting lists, says Ms Tierney, who lives in Castlegar.