Proposed cuts to primary care services in the West have been described as “unprecedented”.
Trade union Fórsa fears that more than 150 posts across the region are being suppressed and closure orders in 11 locations have been issued by HSE management.
The union, the second largest in the State, met with HSE management on the issue last week.
“It is far worse than we ever feared. This is beyond anything we could have even imagined,” said Pádraig Mulligan, Assistant General Secretary with Fórsa. “I believe this represents a decimation of primary care services throughout the West.
“It would appear that your geographical location is about to dictate whether or not you receive a primary care service from the HSE. The upshot is that more patients end up in hospital for longer because they cannot be discharged or fully avail of occupational therapy or palliative services in their home.
“This puts greater pressure on the hospital system and undermines the objectives of primary care in the community,” he said.
Mr Mulligan explained that 11 occupational therapists have already been let go.
“These were a group of OTs dealing specifically with significant waiting lists in the West. The clerical officer who provided support to them was also let go.
“Elsewhere in the region, the loss of clerical posts means at least one day a week is now being spent by health and social care professionals (HSCPs) on clerical work, further reducing capacity. Individual cases are categorised 1, 2 and 3 in order of severity. In Galway, Mayo and Roscommon, service is only provided in cases identified as ‘Priority 1’.
“In order to cover these cases, the small number of practitioners left are spending more hours travelling between clients. They’re seeing significantly fewer people as a direct result,” Mr Mulligan added.
Services set for the axe in Mayo according to Fórsa include occupation therapy services in South Mayo, Ballinrobe, Balla, and Castlebar and a range of physiotherapy services.
“The scale of those closure orders is a significant shock to the overall health system in the West. It is unprecedented, and I haven’t witnessed that scale of service closure in my two decades working as a trade union official in this sector,” said Mr Mulligan.
The union has written to public representatives in the region in a bid to prevent the cuts.