New cancer facilities at UHG delayed by €109 million hole in HSE budget

Galway Daily news UHG is the second most overcrowded hospital in Ireland again this week

New cancer facilities meant for University Hospital Galway are one of a number of healthcare investments that are set to be delayed by a massive shortfall in the HSE’s budget.

The HSE has plans to build a new three storey radiation oncology unit at UHG, that was expected to become operational in 2021.

But this cancer treatment centre is one of a number of projects that have been set back by six months, along with a new psychiatric unit for Sligo, and a renal unit at Tallaght Hospital.

In addition, about half of the planned programme of replacements for equipment and ambulances won’t go ahead this year.

The HSE has been set a budget of approximately half a billion euro this year, but according to the Irish Times the health service is facing a “funding gap” of €109 million this year.

According to the HSE’s own internal calculations, the overspend in the health service this year is set to be massive, ranging from €750 million to €1.1 billion in worst case scenarios.

The government is also dealing with a deficit of €140 million the health service is carrying over from last year.

Health Minister Simon Harris told Minister for Public Expenditure Pascal Donohue of the shortfall in a letter sent in May asking the government to help deal with significant funding pressures in the health service this year.

He said that the government’s 10 year capital plan, which will invest €10.9 billion in health facilities and equipment, was “not balanced”.

According to the Minister the majority of the funding coming in the next few years will go to major projects like the new National Children’s Hospital, the new National Forensic Mental Health Campus, and relocating the National Maternity Hospital.

This will only leave scraps to invest in new medical equipment, as well as commencing projects meant to improve bed capacity at existing hospitals, he said.

The Minister is asking the government to bring forward €1 billion in funding that was originally scheduled to be delivered in the latter years of the plan.

The planned cancer treatment centre at UHG, when it’s completed, will have seven radiotherapy treatment vaults, a brachytherapy suite, two CT rooms, as well as on-treatment support and administrative facilities.

Minister Harris had previously said that work on the oncology unit couldn’t go ahead until the new acute mental health unit was completed, which opened in July.

Tenders for the cancer centre’s construction were invited at that time.

The HSE has said that the deficit in the health service is caused by to growing demand on medical card schemes, spending pressures in hospitals, and attempts by insurance companies to reduce what they have to pay for customers treated at public hospitals.