Overspending in seven hospitals in the west and north-west by over €27m of the budget will make cutbacks inevitable according to Fine Gael because resources for day-to-day services are overstretched.
Front-bench spokesman Denis Naughten said: "Public health services are already being curtailed in the north-east region due to overspends.There is a very real risk that this will be replicated in the west and north-west, where hospitals had overspent their budget by €27m by the end of May."
Estimates have revealed that Letterkenny General Hospital overshot its budget by €8.03m, Sligo General Hospital by €4.8m over budget, University College Hospital in Galway by €6.2m, Mayo General by €4.1m, Portinuncula exceeded spending by€2.4m, Merlin Park Hospital in Galway City by €642,000 and the County Hospital Roscommon exceeded its budget by €970,000.
According to Mr Naughten the HSE would now seek to curb spending in these hospitals, with a direct impact on patient services.
He said, "These cutbacks will have a detrimental effect on patient services, curtailing elective surgery and affecting the most vulnerable patients.The overnight trolley count hit a high of 241 earlier this month, and is bound to rise this winter."
Fine Gael has blamed this overspend in hospitals as just one symptom of the HSE's own illness: the imbalance between the ballooning number of backroom staff and the medical staff at the front line who are struggling to cope.
Mr Naughten also said, 'Meanwhile, key positions remain unfilled and services are being affected, like the six-year-old child waiting since May 2005 for an appointment with an occupational therapist.'
'Instead of taking immediate steps to tackle the root causes of hospital overspending, such as the lack of community care services and the underdeveloped level of primary care, the HSE's solution will be to impose cutbacks in patient services.'
'The HSE's approach is to close the door after the horse has bolted instead of investigating why the door was left open in the first place.'
'In a country that has over 30,000 millionaires it is a damning indictment of the Government's commitment to our health services that we are faced with cutbacks in this already depleted service.'