Over 800 jobs to be cut as health budgets slashed

More than 800 jobs are to be cut as part of a plan to slash budgets across health services in Cork and Kerry.

Under the HSE South service plan, Mallow General Hospital’s emergency department will close, with emergency surgery being switched to Cork University Hospital (CUH), while the casualty unit at Bantry General Hospital will be replaced with a 12-hour, seven-day-a-week urgent care centre.

A 20-bed ward in Cork’s Marymount Hospice will now open on a phased basis due to budget changes — among a number of changes aimed at increasing the level of palliative care in the southern region.

The HSE pledged to improve services in the South despite having its overall budget trimmed by €8.6m.

HSE South will also look to cut 800 full-time jobs from its staffing complement. According to the service plan: “This reduction is significant and of a scale to that already achieved in the previous three years, but cannot be achieved solely on natural turnover and retirements in 2013.

“The workforce will have to continue to undergo major overhaul, downsizing, and has to be reconfigured to deliver more for less in terms of employment levels and costs in the course of this service plan.”

However, despite the changes to Mallow General Hospital, the HSE stressed its future was secure. It will take on more day surgery from hospitals in Cork city and will treat more patients.

Junior Minister and local Fine Gael TD Sean Sherlock last night defended the move, saying the hospital would now increase activity levels in certain areas and that, following a previous Health Information and Quality Authority report, it had been a case of “either change or die”.

He said the hospital’s future had lain in elective day case and short-stay surgery that would not be carried out by a multi-disciplinary team, thereby securing its future.

The region’s largest hospital, CUH, will have its budget increased by €23.3m while Cork Community Services will see reductions of €11m.

The service plan also outlines steps to move people with an intellectual disability from the long-term care setting of Grove House in Cork to community settings in partnership with the Cope Foundation, while 11 Genio projects across HSE South to support people with an intellectual disability are to move to community settings.

New community hospitals will open in Kenmare and Wexford, while CUH will open 46 medical beds, 29 surgical beds, and a six-bed surgical assessment unit, as well as an emergency theatre.

“While it will be impossible to avoid an impact on frontline service delivery in 2013, not least due to a significantly reduced staff numbers, at all times, the safety of our patients and service users is paramount,” the service plan said.

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