Acute hospitals’ budgets slashed by four per cent

Hospital waiting lists are set to increase significantly, as multi million budgets cuts will mean that acute hospitals will have to drastically cut the number of inpatients and outpatients they can treat this year, writes Maureen Browne.

The country’s acute hospitals will have to cut their inpatient and outpatient treatments by over 27,000 this year as a result of budget cuts.

They have been allocated a total of €3.7 billion from the HSE to run their services for 2014 – a reduction of about €250 million on 2013.

HSE national director for acute hospitals, Mr. Ian Carter said that on average acute hospitals would face reductions of about four per cent in their allocations in 2014.

The HSE says the 2014 funding is based on projected requirements rather than historic budgets. Acute hospitals had an overrun last year of €177m, which will be carried into 2014.  They will also have to meet the €56m of cost containment measures introduced last year.

This will result in 24,660 fewer day case procedures and over 3,000 fewer inpatient treatments.

The HSE has stated that the number of planned in-patient treatments and day case treatments in the country’s acute hospitals are to be reduced by 3% this year. This will result in 24,660 fewer day case procedures and over 3,000 fewer inpatient treatments.

However, despite this and growing patient waiting lists, the HSE promises that this year no adult will wait more than eight months for a planned operation or day-case procedure, and no child more than 20 weeks for these procedures.

The HSE also plans to reduce by 10% the number of patients whose acute care has ended but cannot be discharged for various reasons.

This year the HSE is refusing to issue the individual allocations of acute hospitals, only disclosing the allocations to the hospital groups.

The Dublin North East Group has received €616.769 million, the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group €734.446 million, the Dublin East Hospital Group €699.827 million, the South/South West Hospital Group €625.759 million, the West/North West Hospital Group € 598.087 million, the University of Limerick Hospital Group €234.861 million and the National Children’s Hospital Group €190.334 million.

The HSE also plans to reduce by 10% the number of patients whose acute care has ended but cannot be discharged for various reasons.

These figures are net of 2014 hospital income targets. The HSE has set a target to generate savings of €60 million under the Haddington Road agreement on pay and productivity. A further €7.5 million in savings is earmarked from reconfiguring services.

The Acute Divisional Operational Plan shows that €80 million relating to the Haddington Road Agreement will be held centrally and allocated to individual services including acute hospitals depending on the savings achieved

Hospitals have been told to focus on improved income collection, with possible financial penalties where improvements do not occur.

Hospital budgets do not include €38.4m which the HSE says will be invested in a number of new critical service developments and €7.7m for initiatives to meet demographic pressures in the acute hospitals and Regional Acute Support Services.

There is €4.5 million f or diabetic retinopathy services. Gross budget for mental health is €765 million which includes €20 million in ring fenced funding for mental health teams.