The Irish Examiner understands that the HSE South local service plan, due to be published on Thursday, will include the significant hit to Cork University Hospital over the next 11 months.
Combined with the closure of 18 medical and surgical beds, including six paediatric bed closures announced in January, at the Mercy University Hospital, it means Ireland’s second city will see 48 beds removed from its two largest hospitals.
Both a HSE South spokesperson and HSE South director of operations, Pat Healy, refused to comment on the figures as the local service plan has yet to be made public.
However, sources have confirmed CUH management will be told it has significantly less funds to cover frontline service and elective procedures as the national financial crisis continues to impact on life-saving care.
It is also understood significant cutbacks are being planned for Kerry General and the Waterford Regional, among other major facilities in the region.
Meanwhile, surgeries will be cancelled in public hospitals to cope with the exodus of health staff under the Government’s early retirement scheme.
The admission by James Reilly, the health minister, comes as the Government faces possible legal action from former health staff over a botched calculation of their retirement packages.
Dr Reilly said scheduled operations for patients could be delayed while the system struggles to fill gaps from at least 3,500 staff who were expected to leave by the end of this month.
“I’ve absolutely no problem in saying that if one of the things we have to do is slow down on elective inpatient procedures for a short period of time to allow us absorb this change, then we’ll do that.” Health services could “catch up again” later in the year, he said.
It is thought 2,100 of the staff leaving are in frontline care posts, such as nursing, ambulance and support services.
Health chiefs are also facing possible legal action from disgruntled former employees whose retirement packages were miscalculated.
Pensions ombudsman Paul Kenny made the warning over the 2010 HSE scheme, and cited a case where people were promised 40% more than they were actually entitled to and decided to leave on that basis.
Dr Reilly said the situation was a bit of a “conundrum”.