Letters from the chief executive officers of four of the largest hospitals in the State, St. James’s, Tallaght, the Mater and Our Lady’s in Crumlin, to the director general of the Health Service Executive, HSE, and revealed in last evening’s “Prime Time” programme illustrate how untenable the Government’s budgetary strategy is for the health service. Clearly, the letters indicate that the centre cannot simply hold if the Government proceeds with cuts of up to €666 million to the health budget. In a nutshell, they have stated the quality of services and patient safety are being compromised and will be irreparably compromised if the cuts go ahead. This is about access to services and patient safety. All the demands being put on the health service and hospitals, they claim, in contrast with the budget, are leading to undeliverable objectives and imperatives. Alarmingly, they also point out there are now delays in cancer services for patients. In essence, the progress achieved in the past decade in cancer care is being dismantled. This view was added to by Owen Smith, consultant paediatric haematologist at Crumlin, this morning on “Morning Ireland” when he confirmed that children and teenagers with cancer were having treatments delayed when timely interventions with their types of cancer were critical. He made it clear that survival and outcomes were being adversely affected as a result. The hospitals' chief executive officers have stated the implementation of the Taoiseach’s budget proposals will lead to “a serious dysfunctional and damaging outcome.”
For months, we have been raising the issue of discretionary medical cards, but the Taoiseach puts his head in the sand with denial after denial, week after week. Does he accept that services in our acute hospitals and patient safety are being compromised as result of budgetary policy? Will he accept that the provision of cancer care is being dismantled? Is he determined to proceed with the scale of the budget cuts in health that he has announced?