Hospital campaigners in the northeast have expressed concern over plans by the Health Service Executive to eliminate the use of all agency staff and overtime within the Louth-Meath hospital group.

Earlier this month, HSE management in the region instructed department heads to cease using all agency staff and eliminate all overtime by the start of December.

In late June, an internal HSE report outlined what would happen to the service if the use of agency nurses and administrators was cut by half.

It warned that patient safety would be compromised, surgery would be reduced, waiting lists would be longer and beds would close.

Over 170 agency jobs would go in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, Louth County Hospital in Dundalk and Our Lady's Hospital in Navan.

Both documents were obtained by the Save Navan Hospital Campaign, which warned that if the HSE goes ahead with the plan it would have catastrophic consequences for the service and patient lives would be put at risk.

A spokesperson for the HSE said the June document was only a draft and had no status.

They said risk assessment would be completed on the latest instruction to ensure proper controls are in place allowing measures to be implemented fully.