Health watchdog warning over budget cutbacks

Ireland’s health watchdog has acknowledged that billions of euro worth of cutbacks to the health service over the coming years could cause another hospital crisis like that seen at Tallaght.

Speaking at the Oireachtas health committee meeting, Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) chief executive Dr Tracey Cooper said the budget cuts will prove “challenging” to already struggling facilities.

The independent expert said Tallaght Hospital’s new board was working to improve the service after a damning Hiqa investigation last week raised serious concerns over standards at the Dublin hospital.

However, responding to a question from Sinn Féin health spokesman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin over a potential €2bn more in health cuts by 2014, she said introducing major reform and preventing a repeat scenario in another hospital may prove difficult.

“It’s going to be a significant challenge,” she said.

The watchdog also told the joint TD and senator committee that Hiqa remained “deeply troubled” by repeated serious breaches of public procurement processes by the hospital’s former board.

These include €739,000 in “top up” payments to five senior officials between 2005 and 2010, one of whom is still working at the hospital, and €1.8m paid to consultancy firms in 2010, the same year as the hospital faced a €5.8m deficit.

They are the subject of two separate independent investigations.

While stressing the hard work of many people in the health service, Dr Cooper further warned that none of Ireland’s public hospitals could give Hiqa “every single part” of emergency department statistics relating to last week’s investigation.


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