Minister for Health Mary Harney has rejected claims that cuts to be implemented next year will cripple the health service.

The Minister was responding to claims made at the annual conference of the Irish Hospital Consultants Association in Limerick.

Dr Anthony Staines, Professor of Health Systems Research, School of Nursing at Dublin City University told the conference that the cuts in health funding looming for 2011 would cripple the system.

Minister Harney said that while achieving the savings would not be easy, the Croke Park agreement will allow for improved patient care.

She said she wanted to see more same-day surgery and, in time, 80% of cases being treated on a day-case basis.

Minister Harney said that under the HSE's proposals for flexibility under the Croke Park agreement, staff would move from wards that were not busy to wards that had high activity.

She also defended the 50c prescription charge for medical card prescriptions, saying it was a modest fee.

Consultants accuse HSE of being disconnected

The IHCA has accused the HSE of being dysfunctional and disconnected from staff involved in delivering care.

In a speech at the conference, IHCA President Dr Margot Wrigley described the HSE as cumbersome, inefficient and not fit for purpose.

Dr Wrigley said: 'The crude embargo on jobs in the health service is cutting the frontline services provided by doctors, nurses and others, while it is having less impact on the numbers employed in administration.

'If the HSE had a real concern about health rather than numbers in an accountant's column, it would see this and make immediate reforms.'

Dr Wrigley said that the HSE was set up without a single job being lost and without a single efficiency.

She said the staff recruitment moratorium took no account of patient needs.

The IHCA President said that community psychiatric teams were at the point of falling apart as nurses are brought back to cover hospital services.

Meanwhile, a consultant surgeon has claimed that reconfiguration of hospitals around the country has got out of control.

Peter Murchan from South Tipperary General Hospital in Clonmel told the conference that centralising services works for some conditions, such as cancer, but it has its limits.

He questioned moves to centralise acute care and said patients were losing their rights.