HSE West publishes plan to maintain critical services with tight budget

Critical services will be maintained despite the effects of retirements and budget restraints, that is according to regional director of operations John Hennessy at the launch of the West Area Service Plan for 2012.

The service plan, which was published by the Health Services Executive recently, outlines how funding allocated for HSE West for this year stands at €1.781 billion - a net reduction of 5.2 per cent on the 2011 budget or €104.8 million - and that the staff count for HSE West is set at 24,031 whole time equivalents - a reduction of three per cent on 2011. The plan states that the budget and the staffing resources are still at a level where HSE West is able to provide services to more than 144,000 inpatient discharges, emergency department services to more than 320,000 people, deliver almost 16,000 babies, provide more than three million home help hours, and provide services to 13,800 people with disability. Despite reductions in resources, a number of developments are due to take place across the west this year with emphasis placed on delivery of safe and quality service, protecting frontline services as much as possible within the current budget, meeting access improvement targets to ensure patients have rapid and appropriate access to the right service in the most appropriate setting, delivering efficient and effective use of resources to ensure best value for money is achieved.

Commenting on the plan Mr Hennessy said: “Over the last number of years, the reductions in health expenditure have been achieved largely through a combination of price reductions, including drugs, procurement, changes in demand led schemes, as well as increases in charges and reductions in numbers employed. In 2012 the scale of the reductions required will impact increasingly on frontline services. However the HSE is working to move to new models of care which will allow us to get more from our reduced budget. The new SDU targets and clinical programmes will enable us to achieve more efficiency by seeing the same levels of patients by using our resources more effectively. Notwithstanding this, it is clear that it will be difficult to deliver all services at the same levels as previous years.

“A full service plan review will be undertaken in March to ensure that the effects of the retirement schemes are fully reflected in the service plan and that contingency arrangements are in place. We have contingency plans to address key gaps through redeployment and reassigning staff. We will be monitoring on a daily basis the effects of the retirements on the system and I am satisfied that that critical services will be maintained.”

According to the service plan, HSE West will be concentrating on reshaping and remodelling health services in line with the Programme for Government including the development of hospital networks with new governance structures, and stronger more integrated primary and social care sectors. It noted the reduction of 683 staff who take up retirement at the end of this month, but that HSE West managers have been putting contingency plans in plan to ensure that essential services are maintained.

Among the changes and improvements planned this year are the opening of the acute medical assessment unit at University Hospital Galway and transferring acute medicine from Merlin Park to UHG, as well as appointing three acute medicine physicians. It is also planned to open the medical assessment unit at Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe, as part of the acute medicine programme, to refurbish the neo-natal intensive care unit at UHG, and to enhance neurology, rheumatology, and dermatology services as part of the outpatient service improvement.

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