HEALTH chiefs from Barnsley Hospital who have proposed massive cuts in response to Government austerity measures have been summoned to appear before a committee of local councillors tomorrow to explain their ideas.
Huge savings are required at the hospital over the next three years to balance the books after it was announced that the level of funding available from the Department of Health would drop significantly.
Trade unions and Barnsley East Labour MP Michael Dugher have warned that cuts will have a devastating effect and members of Barnsley Council said they wanted to discuss the implications with those in charge of services.
The issues will be debated at a meeting of the Health and Adult Services Scrutiny Commission at 2pm today in the Town Hall council chamber.
Forecasts suggest that Barnsley Hospital managers will need to cut the number of overnight hospital stays by 10,000 a year for the next three years and to close two surgical wards and the main operating theatre by 2013.
Trade union Unison said this would signal a return to the "bad old days of the 1980s and 1990s, when people waited for hours, if not days, on trolleys".
It is also thought that they will need to reduce the number of beds in the stroke unit from 28 to 19 and close the respiratory ward. The interim chief executive of the hospital, Paul O'Connor, has been invited to attend the meeting to answer committee questions.
A council spokesman said: "Members will be asking questions about the progress which has been made towards identifying savings and the plans are in place to achieve them.
"They will also be interested in the outcome of a staff consultation, the impact on staff and patients and the future challenges facing the hospital."
The spokesman added that members of the public were also invited to attend the meeting to hear the hospital's responses.