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Health Minister penalising patients - Ó Caoláin

17 January, 2006

Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has called for a halt to the practice of cutting annual hospital budgets as a penalty for alleged inefficiency. Commenting on figures released by the Department of Health and Children showing three hospitals have had their budgets cut by over €1million each for failing an efficiency test, Deputy Ó Caoláin said that the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children Mary Harney was “penalising patients and plunging struggling hospitals into further trouble”.

Deputy Ó Caoláin pointed out that the North Eastern region (Cos. Cavan, Monaghan, Meath and Louth) had suffered more proportionally than any other region. Budget cuts for hospitals in Monaghan, Cavan and Navan amount to just under €1.5 million. When the extra funding for Louth General Hospital and Our Lady of Lourdes Drogheda is taken into account the net loss to the hospital services in the region is over €700,000. Describing this as “punitive in the extreme”, Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

“Minister Harney is effectively punishing patients for the alleged inefficiency of hospitals and plunging struggling hospitals into further trouble. The North East region is suffering more than any other region in proportion to its population. Monaghan General Hospital has seen service after service taken away from it and its budget has now been cut by €257,217. Cavan General Hospital, which has had to cope with the added burden after the closure of the Monaghan maternity and A&E units is to be cut by €220,563. And Our Lady’s Hospital Navan is to have its budget cut by over €1million.

“The staff working in these hospitals have been heroic in their efforts to cope with the healthcare needs of the region in the face of Government neglect. This has included cuts in services in the region as well as the State-wide shortage of nurses, the under-provision of acute beds and ongoing problems with deployment of consultants. In this context how can it be fair and in the interests of patients to deem certain hospitals inefficient, cut their budgets and award that funding to other – and mostly larger – hospitals?

“This system is more akin to awarding bonuses and penalties to production managers in factories than to a health system and for that reason is much favoured by Minister Harney. It should be scrapped.” ENDS

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