Feature: Health in Crisis

The crisis in our health service is continuing, and in fact is being made worse by the vicious cutbacks being imposed by this government. In this special feature Socialist Party reporters from around the country give a glimpse not just of the crisis, cutbacks and closures, but also of the fightback.


The HSE has announced over €13 million in cuts for Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown, west Dublin. Councillor MATT WAINE spoke to Dr EAMON LEEN, a consultant in the hospital about the impact of the cuts.

“Pay cuts will account for between €5 and €6 million of the €13 million leaving the hospital with €7 million to find. This means a programme of ward and outpatient department closures leading to delayed operations with additional pressures on casualty.

“The recruitment embargo also has an ongoing insidious effect especially as some departments end up being disproportionately affected. Services to the community will be reduced.

“The HSE and the Department of Health have had a centralising policy but a ” bigger is better” logic for all services is in my opinion wrong. The HSE have cleverly used individual cases of misdiagnosis to push this agenda e.g. Ennis hospital. We should remember that a lot of centralisation has already happened in Dublin where we now have six general hospitals compared with 11 in the early 1980s. Incidentally, the private clinics recently established are generally small to medium sized.

“The government clearly wishes many services to be outsourced to the private sector which is perceived as more efficient but they do not have to deal with the long term chronic illnesses confronted by hospitals like James Connolly.
“Locally, James Connolly has been trying for nearly 10 years to get an MRI scanner – a basic piece of equipment for a hospital of our size and workload without success. The cost is around only €1 million. So we have to send many patients to the Hermitage clinic and elsewhere.

“This seems illogical from the financial viewpoint as not only do we pay for the scan but for inpatients, there is a transport and nursing escort cost and the scans are not necessarily reported by our own radiologists so that the medical coordination is less than ideal.

“The HSE wishes to see integration between the Dublin hospitals. For James Connolly the only option seems to be an ever closer link to Beaumont. Whilst we have long cooperated closely with both Beaumont and the Mater we are now talking about a full amalgamation. “The bottom line is money and it is unlikely that full 24-hour casualty services will be maintained across both sites. Whilst the hospital, because of its location, will push for the casualty service nothing can be taken for granted. So whilst formal closure is not on the cards the hospital may lose both its cancer and casualty services and may become an “elective” centre dealing with routine medical and surgical cases. In all of this, it is important to remember that further steep cuts are planned for the next three years.”

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As HSE West faces a deficit of €90 million by the end of the year, there has been a range of proposals to cut costs put forward in recent weeks. A report from UK consultants, Mott MacDonald, suggest up to 1,000 temporary jobs could be cut and even a whole hospital could be closed as part of a plan to save between €44 and €54 million.