2,000 protesters form human chain around hospital over HSE concerns

MORE than 2,000 hospital staff, former patients and members of local community groups formed a human chain around a Ballinasloe hospital yesterday.

They were protesting because they said the HSE intends to cut Portiuncula hospital’s €50 million budget by €7m, which could lead to significant job losses and poorer health services.

Speaking at the Hands Around Our Hospital protest, IMPACT trade union official Padraig Mulligan said the HSE’s planned cuts for Portiuncula were disproportionately high and that University College Hospital Galway would be unable to cope with the increased demand that would be generated if the HSE was successful in downgrading Portiuncula. Mr Mulligan called on local politicians of all parties to give “practical support” to the campaign to preserve services at the hospital, by voting against their party whips if necessary.

“This community will not forgive or forget those of you who are found wanting in standing with all of us in protecting our hospital and the services it provides,” he said.

HSE spokesman Dr David O’Keeffe said there was no secret agenda to downgrade either Portiuncula Hospital or Roscommon County Hospital, where more than 8,000 people took to the streets at the weekend to express their concern for the future of the hospital there.

The HSE West is in deep financial trouble due to a potential end-of-year overspend of €127m.

Under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission, local negotiations are ongoing between the HSE and staff unions in Galway, Mayo, Roscommon, Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim and the mid-west areas of Limerick, Clare and North Tipperary.

Each area has been examining ways to reduce expenditure, including examining non-pay related saving, reduced hours, careers breaks, unpaid leave, staff relocation and the phasing out of agency staff where possible. An August 31 deadline has been set by which cost cutting measures must be devised.

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