Manager fears ‘attrition of services’ at hospital

The general manager of Letterkenny General Hospital fears “an attrition of services” at the hospital due to budgetary cuts and an inability to recruit and keep staff.

The general manager of Letterkenny General Hospital fears “an attrition of services” at the hospital due to budgetary cuts and an inability to recruit and keep staff.

Sean Murphy said the hospital’s budget was running €4.8m over at the end of May and is on course to reach almost €9m by the end of the year.

The hospital is facing the twin problems of a budgetary overspend and difficulty in recruiting doctors due to a national shortage.

Mr. Murphy told the Donegal Democrat he did not think there would be a formal downgrade of services. However, he added that while the hospital is trying to avoid a cut to services, such a scenario is “a real risk or probability”.

“Clearly there is a lot we have done to try to control our costs in the last year, it has been very tight so it is getting harder and harder to squeeze further savings out of the system and in doing so we end up impacting more and more on patient care.

“I don’t believe that they should downgrade Letterkenny General Hospital, but my big anxiety is that we end up not with a formal downgrading but an attrition of services as budgetary pressures or an inability to recruit staff or keep staff keep.”

Mr. Murphy said the hospital’s budget is too small and that has lead to a reduction in staff. “Overall in the last two years our staff has come quiet significantly, our costs have come down and we are treating more patients and more complex patients.

“We are getting a hospital that is delivering more work with less people and for an overall less cost. There are only two things you can do. You can become more efficient, and that is very hard to do when you have already driven a lot of efficiencies through the system. Or you start curtailing the range of services. You get to the point when there is no option but you are talking about (cutting) patient services.”

He said cuts will not be across the board because the emergency services become the first priority meaning waiting lists will grow.

“You are looking at the usual suspects, the patients on waiting lists waiting longer.”

The difficulty the hospital is facing, he said, is that even a significant reduction in the level of services would not result in the hospital breaking even, it would just reduce the rate of the deficit.

“I am being told that this is the amount of money you have got and I have to work within the budget being allocated,” he added.