HSE West cuts to be outlined


An update on the extent of cuts in the HSE West region is expected to be given by senior management today.

Details of the cuts are due to be debated at a HSE West regional health forum in Galway today.

A report on the overall approach to “cost-containment and management of services” to the end of the year will also be delivered by HSE West’s regional director of operations John Hennessy at the forum.

HSE West issued a statement yesterday in which it “stressed every healthcare facility must operate within its allocated budget” for the year. “While this poses significant challenges, steps have and are being taken to reduce costs in non-frontline areas and to ensure that frontline services are protected.”

HSE West said it had been allocated a budget of €2.1 billion for 2010, with a projected deficit of €133 million at the beginning of the year. “Cost-containment plans which have been in effect over recent months have reduced this projected overrun to €49.5 million [August figures],” it added.

“As such, steps must continue to be taken to ensure that further savings are achieved and that HSE West remains within its allocated budget in 2010, which it is statutorily obliged to do,” it said.

Galway West Independent TD Noel Grealish has said he has heard “nothing” from Taoiseach Brian Cowen or Minister for Health Mary Harney since he told them late last week he could no longer support the Government over planned cuts in the west.

Last Friday, the former Progressive Democrats TD said his support for the Government could not be relied on until the position relating to health cuts in the west had been clarified.

Ms Harney said she would meet Mr Grealish this week, but ruled out any “deal”.

Mr Grealish said he came to his decision after a private briefing last Thursday of politicians and HSE West regional forum members by HSE West senior management, including clinical director for acute services and continuing care in Galway-Roscommon Dr David O’Keeffe.

Mr Grealish said Dr O’Keeffe had informed the group that implementation of a €19.7 million budget cut on health services would have a “huge impact” on patient care.

Politicians were told that HSE West had already implemented measures to meet cuts of €65 million in expenditure sought by the HSE national headquarters by the end of the financial year.

Dr O’Keeffe reportedly told the politicians that no further cuts could be implemented without a risk to patient safety.

HSE West regional forum chairman Pádraig Conneely (FG) accused Mr Grealish of “grandstanding”. Mr Conneely, who was at the briefing, said it was his understanding that hospitals in Galway had received a “last-minute reprieve”.

The matter was “now in the hands of the national HSE”, but he acknowledged Dr O’Keeffe was now under “severe pressure”, given his stance on the issue as “both a doctor and a chief executive”.