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The HSE's incoming chief executive Tony O'Brien says cuts are necessary to stop the agency running out of cash before the end of the year. Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

New HSE chief: Cutbacks will 'absolutely' mean bed closures

Tony O’Brien also says the €130 million in cuts is absolutely vital if the HSE is to ensure it doesn’t run out of money.

THE INCOMING HEAD of the Health Service Executive has admitted that the latest package of financial cutbacks in the health service this year will “absolutely” result in the closure of beds and loss of personnel.

Tony O’Brien said the cuts – announced on Thursday – were a necessity if the HSE was to avoid running out of cash before the end of the year.

O’Brien said that if the latest €130 million of cuts were not effected, the service would run a deficit of €500 million – which would mean the HSE was in line to run out of cash before the end of the year.

He added that the cutbacks – which include a reduction in overtime and clampdowns on the use of agency staff to fill the gaps left by the public service recruitment embargo – would “absolutely” mean that the overall capacity of the system would be lowered.

“In my intray, when I became effectively the acting CEO of the HSE less than two weeks ago, was a clear requirement from the government, by the end of last week, to identify €130 million of cuts which could be definitively be delivered this year,” O’Brien told RTÉ’s This Week programme.

This had been demanded by the government in order to provide assurances to the Troika about the ability to deliver savings in the sector, he said – before adding that he was committed to enacting further cuts, though in ways that would not affect the care afforded to patients.

Areas in which further savings could be made include managing the HSE’s purchasing system, and improved management of the executive’s cash and stock resources.

Risk of running out

“Nobody takes any pleasures in identifying this list,” O’Brien said.

If we do not bring the €500 million back into line… we face the very real prospect of running out of cash before year-end.

A draft report from the European Commission, leaked to TDs earlier this week, noted that the health sector had delivered only just over a fifth of the €543 million it was due to cut back in 2012.

O’Brien also assured that a HSE release earlier this week, which suggested that the number of medical cards in issue was 125,000 more than originally budgeted for, was incorrect.

O’Brien said a subsequent release had clarified that the correct number was 33,000 – an increase attributed to the higher-than-expected unemployment figures.

Read: Reilly’s position as health minister ‘untenable’, says FF

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