HSE cuts to hit services for the elderly and disabled
Cuts affecting the elderly and the disabled feature strongly in a €130 million cost-reduction package announced by the HSE today.
Some 600,000 home-help hours are being cut, the second time this service has been cut this year, while €10 million will be saved through a reduction in personal assistant hours for the disabled. Another €1.7 million will be saved by reducing 200 monthly home care packages.
Across the HSE, agency staff will be cut by half and overtime by 10 per cent in an effort to eliminate the deficit, which currently stands at €259 million.
Some €6 million will be saved by ending the provision of medical products used by up to 50,000 patients. These include the nutritional supplement glucosamine, an anti-obesity drug Orlistat and Omega-3-Triglycerides, which help manage cholesterol. The HSE says these drugs are less beneficial to patients.
According to the HSE, its deficit would rise to €500 million by year’s end if no action was taken. It said both the Government and the troika had set clearly defined budget targets and that it had a statutory obligation to remain within its €13.2 billion budget this year.
The service said every effort had been made to target areas that did not impact on direct services. “However, it is inevitable that some impact on service delivery will be experienced through the implementation of these measures.”
As part of the cost-saving drive, the HSE plans to save €37 million by running stocks as low as possible for the rest of the year, and €26.5 million by spending less on medical equipment, furniture, education, training, travel and advertising.
Drastic cuts in agency staff and overtime have already been announced in the northeast, but other HSE regions are currently formulating their plans for specific cuts, which should be known next week.
Minister for Health James Reilly is due to present to Cabinet his plans for other cutbacks to stem the deficit next week.
In a statement, the head of the Disability Federation of Ireland expressed shock at the HSE cuts and said they were "of great concern" for those with disabilities and their families.
John Dolan chief executive of the federation, said: “For many people these cuts will mean confinement within their own homes.
"These are dramatic cuts and come on top of cumulative cuts to disability services over the last five years, all of which the sector and the individuals affected have endeavoured to cope with, despite the difficulties presented."
Mr Dolan added: “It is truly ironic that such an announcement is made on the opening day for Ireland’s athletes in the Paralympics.”