Threatened HSE cutbacks would decimate Mayo health services

Severe job losses and a decimated health service in the region is a possibility if newly threatened HSE cutbacks in Mayo go ahead. In the whole HSE West region, 1,000 people could lose their jobs, with 300 people on temporary contracts in the county to potentially lose their jobs if a report, compiled by a consultancy firm, is implemented.

Meanwhile it has been revealed that the HSE paid out €90,000 to the UK Mott MacDonald firm behind the ‘cost-containment’ report, commissioned by HSE West, which recommends that staff on temporary contracts should be let go over the next six months in order to achieve savings of €15 to €20 million. Mayo General Hospital was listed as one of six sites with the highest financial deficits which needed to be targetted in the cutbacks .

The consultancy contract was awarded to UK consultants Mott MacDonald following a tender process in April of this year. The Mott MacDonald team, made up of medical, nursing, and accountancy professionals, then carried out on-site visits to hospitals and community services across the HSE west region.

HSE West, which is faced with a €90 million budget deficit, maintains that the report is just a guide for management and no firm decicions have yet been made. However, crisis talks between unions SIPTU, IMPACT, and the INMO, and senior HSE managment at a Labour Relations Commission held last week have given rise to a number of questions to which the HSE is expected to produce some answers this week.

Reacting to the developing saga, Fine Gael Deputy John O'Mahony asked: “How can you take 300 frontline professionals like nurses, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and speech and language therapists out of a service that is already understaffed? The implementation of this plan is a step too far. The sick and elderly people of this country should not have to pay for the mismanagement of this Government.”

“We know that the Mott MacDonald Report has outlined a menu of options to the HSE to cut costs in HSE West to reduce a €63 million deficit,” said Mulranny GP and Labour party member Dr Jerry Cowley. “This includes closing essential coronary and A&E services in local hospitals, or even closing hospitals altogether, if they can get away with it.”

In a statement released the HSE said it is “looking at all options to reduce costs and protect services; including the provision of at least the same level of health services as 2009”. However, the HSE says that the Mott MacDonald report “is a tool that can assist management in achieving the cost savings” and is a “guidance document” which “will form part of the analysis and planning required to reach a break-even position at year end”.On a positive note, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny has welcomed confirmation from the HSE that the interview board has been finalised for conducting interviews in respect of the vacant director of nursing position at the Sacred Heart Hospital in Castlebar. The interviews will take place in the first week of September and local HSE management are anxious to expedite the appointment of a suitable candidate.

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