Health policy of lunacy, says Kenny

TAOISEACH Brian Cowen has been accused of presiding over a “policy of lunacy” as the state’s largest hospital for sick children resorted to closing wards to save money.

Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin, Dublin, said its “break even” plan includes the closure of wards, theatres and a 15% reduction in out-patients appointments, and was aimed at reducing a €9.6 million deficit.

During leaders questions in the Dáil yesterday, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny accused Mr Cowen of presiding over a policy where at the first sign of trouble in any hospital, the answer was always to close wards and not treat patients.

“This is a policy of lunacy,” he declared.

But Mr Cowen said the hospital had to stick to its spending plan, like all hospitals. He pointed out the hospital was allocated just under €140m for this year, an increase of almost 40% since 2004.

Mr Cowen said greater co-ordination between the three children’s hospitals in Dublin – Our Lady’s, Temple Street and Tallaght – was needed to avoid duplication and save money.

He also pointed out that €6m in budget savings had already been identified by Our Lady’s and implemented.

A protest against the cuts at Our Lady’s was staged on Tuesday night by Patients Together, which believes the budgetary cuts are excessive.

Labour TD Mary Upton said the ward closures at Our Lady’s made no sense.

“What’s the point in investing money in improving facilities if the money required to staff and run the services is not going to be available,” she said.

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