From top: Micheál Martin in 2011; Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (right) and Minister for Health Simon Harris
Retired public healthcare worker Brian Burke writes:
It’s only April in the Health Services but The Cervical Smear Programme is in jeopardy with a waiting time of up to eight months for test results.
Why? Because Minister Harris offered repeat screenings to women last year after the CervicalCheck scandal broke. This was despite the fact that he was advised that the capacity didn’t exist.
Why is there no capacity? Because of the enormous numbers involved and that the Health Services outsourced the service and didn’t develop in-house expertise and capacity.
The new National Children’s Hospital will cost at least €1.7 billion, between €400 and €700 million over budget depending on who you believe. There was a whitewash, sorry, I mean report out yesterday. So far, I haven’t learned anything that was not already known.
Leaving aside the “management” of the project that has seen the resignation of two board members, allow me to suggest another fundamental reason for the added expense: It is being built in the wrong place.
There were two greenfield sites on offer, Connolly Hospital and Newlands Cross but the government prevaricated and eventually chose the back yard of an overextended James’ Hospital.
This brownfield site resulted in fundamental extra costs caused by A confined site Limited Access Demolition Works Excavation Works Rerouting of Utilities and that’s before you even start to build.
The Department of Health has already indicated that other capital projects will be “rescheduled” to allow for this year’s overrun of 100 million. Health Service Executive has banned recruitment.
How are service providers expected to cover for annual leave, sick leave, extra demand, not to mention natural wastage due to resignation and retirement?
This was a budgetary decision to save money. But we are only three months into the year.
Disability Services are again in the spotlight for the wrong reasons. The Childrens’ Ombudsman criticised the HSE yesterday because of failures in the care system and children with autism and similar conditions are being expelled from schools because of the State’s inability or unwillingness to provide support services.
The Homeless Mental Health Team haven’t accepted referrals since last July. This is despite the fact that homeless people are at a greater risk of illness, self harm and suicide.
The National Maternity Strategy has received no new funding. The strategy was launched as a response to a spate of failures in our maternity hospitals.
The audit of Orthodontic Services for children still hasn’t been published. Evidently its with the lawyers.
Hospital trolley manufacturers continue to delight in a booming and expanding industry as the crisis continues. The count yesterday was 631, the highest this year.
In an effort to deflect from the above Minister Harris announced a plan to provide free GP care for children under 12 by 2022, three years from now. It is important to note that it’s just a plan, not costed and no consultation with GPs. But it will do as a “smoke and mirrors” exercise.
On Monday, the Taoiseach and Minister Harris launched a “Healthy Ireland Campaign”. They obviously don’t do irony or is it a warning that you better be healthy because you are in serious trouble if you get sick.
The question continues to be, what can be done?
Back in 2001 “Quality and Fairness, A Health Strategy” was launched by the then Minister for Health, Micheál Martin. It was ambitious, far-sighted, radical and what the country needed and its citizens deserved.
“A health system that supports and empowers you, your family and community to achieve your full health potential A health system that is there when you need it, that is fair, and that you can trust A health system that encourages you to have your say, listens to you, and ensures that your views are taken into account.”
But it was very soon doomed to failure when the then Minister for Finance and future EU Commissioner Charlie McCreevy failed to provide it with the necessary financial backing and it was resisted by certain vested interests.
Move forward another 16 years and we are presented with “SlainteCare” by the Oireachtas Committee on Health. Another worthy document that seems destined for failure.
Two years later, the 2019 Implementation Strategy has four goals, two of them are about saving money, one is about healthcare and the last is about implementing the other three.
Already we can see that this is being morphed into an exercise in economics with little or no patient focus.
As if this wasn’t enough “SlainteCare” has to overcome the considerable obstacles of the interests of Big Pharma/Private Health Insurance/Private Health Care Providers/Hospital Consultants and not necessarily in that order.
The reality is that for “SlainteCare” to succeed the government needs to drop an ideology that was best described as being “Closer to Boston than Berlin”. Unfortunately, given recent governments’ history when it comes to the provision of public services this is very unlikely to happen.
Yesterday: Red Flags Missed