Mayo General Hospital has always been used as a political pawn but its future is one which is of the utmost importance to the people of this county.
The news this week that the budget for the running of Mayo General Hospital for 2011 has been reduced by €4 million (down to €74.5 million ), a decrease of €13 million over two years, has led one election candidate to re-ignite the rumour that Mayo General will be downgraded.
Independent Castlebar councillor Michael Kilcoyne has said Mayo General Hospital is facing a serious crisis and these further cuts fuel rumours that the hospital will be downgraded. He has accused the Fine Gael leader of not promising to protect it. “The HSE will be there for at least another five years but these cuts are a disaster for the hospital,” he added.
Cllr Kilcoyne vowed that if elected to Dáil Éireann and should he be part of any grouping supporting a Fine Gael-led government, Mayo General will be one of the items on his shopping list. “The hospital is always a priority for me,” he added.
According to the councillor the new government will blame the HSE for the cuts but he said if 8,000 workers are taken out of the health system, which is part of Fine Gael’s plans, the problems will only get worse. “This is a major problem facing the people of this country,” he added.
According to Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny a specific part of the five point plan is to change the entire system. “Now each hospital gets a block grant at the start of the year but it’s gone by July with no evaluation of how it is spent,” Dep Kenny said. “Our proposal is to change the entire system. Hospitals will be paid for what hospitals do. Patients will be treated as a resource and not a number on a waiting list.”
In relation to Mayo General Dep Kenny spoke to the hospital manager recently and is happy that the hospital has shaped up and ratings have improved.
According to Dep Kenny under a Fine Gael-led government decisions about Mayo General Hospital will be taken by a local trust who know best what expertise the hospital should have. “I don’t want to see any facility closed down until something better is in place. Hospitals know what is best themselves. There is a serious waste in the public sector system and staff have come to me and told me where savings can be made. They were never listened to by the government. Inefficiencies have to be taken out. For example a move from branded drugs to generic drugs could save €200m,” he pointed out.
No cut in frontline services — FG
Fine Gael election candidate Cllr Michael Mulherin has said the cuts “point to the nub of the challenge for the HSE”. She said the challenge will be to streamline services and tackle bureaucracy so as to ensure that there will be no cut in frontline services.
Labour candidate Dr Jerry Cowley has said there should be no cuts to the health service until after the election and the new government is in situ. He said it was vital that services were protected, especially following the loss of cancer services at the Mayo hospital. Dr Cowley pointed out that under Fine Gael 30,000 public sector employees would lose their jobs. “One in six nurses and two teachers in every school,” he said, adding that this is why Labour is needed in government to oppose such cuts.
Labour’s plan is to cut 18,000 public sector workers. According to Dr Cowley beds are closed at Mayo General because there are nursing shortages, but he said the orthopaedic unit allows the hospital to retain a status. “But there have been slippages which needn’t have happened and I always believed in local hospitals and the need to retain local services,” he added.
Dr Cowley was adamant that the future of Mayo General would be secure.
Sinn Féin candidate Cllr Therese Ruane has said healthcare is a right. It is also a priority area for Sinn Féin. She said it is imperative services are maintained at Mayo General and added “we have to fight for our hospital”.
“Sinn Féin have given a commitment to maintain services in rural hospitals,” said the Castlebar candidate, but she added that while primary care is the main pillar of the health system, it has not been delivered on. “Sinn Féin are committed to building 100 primary care centres around the country,” she said. “This is the future of the health service.
“We have seen the danger of Mayo General being downgraded. There have been ward closures. There was a potential that accident and emergency may have been closed at night time. If that happens then other areas will be closed down. We have to maintain our hospitals.”
While the hospital’s funding has been reduced, the same level of service will have to be maintained, John Hennessy, regional director of operations, HSE West, told a meeting of the HSE West forum on Tuesday.