A junior minister has denied the health budget for next year is unworkable despite a warning to the HSE from the heads of four of the country's biggest hospitals over cuts.
A report on RTE's Primetime programme stated that the chief executives of Tallaght Hospital, St. James's Hospital, the Mater and Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children have warned that cuts mean some cancer patients are facing delays in treatment due to overwhelming pressures on services.
The hospitals have warned the HSE of the dangers to patient safety as a result and say they cannot continue to operate in such a manner.
Fine Gael TD Fergus O'Dowd, Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Energy & Natural Resources and Environment, Community & Local Govt, says cuts can be made without cutting services.
"There have to be cuts of €666m - that is the challenge, and it's a very serious and a very difficult challenge for everybody concerned," he said.
"Obviously the HSE will have their development plan which will be put before the Minister for Health on the 15th of this month
"Clearly it's a very serious issue, we're deeply concerned about it and we're focused on resolving the issue.
"The key issue for us is not in cutting services, but is in cutting the cost of services" he added.
However Consultant Oncologist at St. Vincent's Hospital in Dublin Professor John Crown said it was significant that CEOs have written to the HSE expressing concern.
"The CEOs with great respect do tend often to see themselves on the same side of the power equation as the HSE and as the Department of Health," Senator Crown said.
"They would be part of the management bureaucracy, which buys into a belief that the right way to run the health system is to work on a global budget, centrally determined.
"I think it is extremely significant that these gentlemen are actually putting their necks out and saying this, because it goes against the normal culture of the way they work."