INMO Says Health Services Face Fourth Year Of Cuts Following Budget Statememt

–          Still no protection for frontline services

–          INMO to seek crisis meeting with Minister

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, following today’s budget statement, is gravely disappointed at the failure of the Government, in its first budget, to ensure frontline services are protected.

The announcement that a further 543 million euro is to be taken from the health budget, the fourth successive year for health service cuts, will result, in the absence of protections, in the following:

  • The closure of a further number of Community Nursing Units providing long term care to the elderly;
  • The closure of more acute beds, particularly in medium sized hospitals, due to the non replacement of frontline staff who leave;
  • The further quantum reduction in community based services due to the reduction in home help hours and other supports; and,
  • Greater demand for public health services due to the inevitable reduction in the numbers retaining private health insurance cover due to the increased cost of same.

In the past three years the health service has seen a loss of 3,100 nursing posts (which equates to 6 million nursing hours per annum) and today’s announcements, from Government, failed to clarify whether this haemorrhage of essential frontline posts would be stopped through targeted recruitment initiatives to protect frontline services.

The impact, of this crude uncontrolled downsizing, has been to greatly increase the clinical risk for patients as overworked frontline staff strive to provide safe care.  This negative impact upon care and services, has been confirmed, in recent weeks, through the public comments of senior clinicians including the Master of the Rotunda Hospital, who has called for additional midwifery staff to be recruited to protect and maintain services.

In addition, today’s statement failed to clarify what specific contingency proposals the Government will bring forward to ensure frontline services are maintained when the expected large number of health service staff exercise their right to retire by February 2012.  In nursing alone the numbers retiring could be at least 1500 when you take into account all disciplines of nursing including public health and mental health.

The funding shortfall, as outlined in the Government announcement, could, according to the Minister for Health himself, reach more than 800 million euro because of:

–          the budget overrun, from this year which must be met next year;

–          additional costs arising from VAT (announced by the Government itself); and.

–          the agency directive (required by Europe).

It is the view of the INMO that it will not be possible to maintain a public health service, fit for purpose and capable of providing safe care, without overt protections, for frontline services, being brought forward immediately

Speaking this evening, INMO General Secretary, Liam Doran said: “The severity of the cuts, being proposed for the Irish public health system, for the fourth successive year is unprecedented within the OECD.

These cuts have been imposed at a time when demand for services continues to increase due to our ageing population and the effects of the recession.

The failure of the Government to bring forward the protections for frontline services, it spoke about so often when in opposition, must be challenged.  No amount of redeployment or reconfiguration can maintain services in the face of a continuing wave of unmanaged cutbacks.

We again call upon the Minister, and the Government, to bring forward the necessary protections, for frontline services, that will be needed to ensure safe care is always available to every patient or client presenting for treatment to our public health service and the INMO will be seeking an early meeting with the Minister in this regard.”

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