HSE West health cuts will involve reductions in the working hours of 4,000 temporary staff; moves to eliminate absenteeism and the re-deployment of head office staff to other regions.

Details of the cuts and how the HSE plans to avoid a €49m end-of-year budget overrun were outlined at a meeting of the Western Regional Health Forum in Galway this afternoon.

Under the plan, the working hours of the temporary staff would be cut by 7,000 hours per week, the replacement of student nurses would be curtailed and overtime payments and travel allowances would be significantly reduced.

HSE Regional Director of Operations John Hennessy told the meeting that no extra Government funding would be provided and difficult choices would have to be made to stay within budget.

He said there would also have to be a greater emphasis on day-care treatment - as one third of patients currently in the region's hospitals should not be occupying in-patient beds.

Board members from each of the counties within the HSE West Region have been demanding that the €49m savings the authority is trying to make should be carried forward into next year's budget.

Forum Chairman Pádraig Conneely said the cuts which had been outlined would have a very grave impact on the level of service throughout the region.

Meanwhile, a group of consultant surgeons based in Galway has said it has serious concerns about the impact the cuts will have on the services they provide for thousands of people living in the west of Ireland.

Trauma & Orthopaedic Surgeon Bill Curtin said they are concerned that they will have to work at a fraction of their capacity.

SIPTU to ballot members on industrial action

SIPTU, which represents over 20,000 health care workers in the region, said cuts that have already been made are bringing services to the verge of collapse.

The union is preparing to ballot its members for possible industrial action.

Health services in the region, which stretches from Donegal to Limerick, are set to cost €2.1bn.

In its attempt to head off a €133m overrun, the HSE has introduced a wide range of cost-cutting measures.

These have reduced that projected overrun to the current figure of €49m.

The HSE said cuts have centred on back office and administrative costs.

Vacant posts have been left unfilled and there are planned seasonal ward closures and cuts to the working hours of temporary staff.

SIPTU said the cuts now being implemented - particularly to home help services in Co Mayo - are in breach of the spirit of the Croke Park Agreement.

Regional Health Organiser Colm Keaveney said many services are on the verge of collapse and the union wants the HSE to open all of its books to public scrutiny.