When is all this co-located hospitals nonsense going to stop? Ireland is about to replicate a discredited system by promoting a 2-tier health system. It seems that our Minister for Health is determined to pursue her goal despite widespread opposition. She still maintains that the co-located scheme to free up 1,ooo public beds in public hospitals by providing 1,ooo private beds in co-located hospitals, will cost less than providing new public beds directly. It’s time for Mary Harney to come clean on this because from what we hear and read (Highly recommended: ‘Emergency- Irish Hospitals in Chaos’ by Marie O’Connor 2007), the figures simply don’t add up.
These co-located hospitals are to be built by ‘for-profit’ companies on public hospital grounds subsidised by the Irish tax payer. As Maurice Neligan points out in his column Heart Beat in the Health Supplement of today’s Irish Times “Co-location has nothing to do with patient welfare but is merely another prop from an overdeveloped and soon-to-be-troubled construction industry”.
Our Minister for Health declared in early 2006 that the situation in A&E had to be treated as a ‘national emergency’. According to Eilish O’Regan in Independent.ie last week, emergency consultants were claiming that “some hospitals have seen record numbers of patients on trolleys in recent months”. The HSE hit back by challenging the doctors’ claims and by saying that we need “to take account of the time scales for key infrastructural developments aimed at enabling improvements in emergency departments including the construction and commissioning of 700 additional public long stay beds and the establishment of additional acute medical admissions units“. Could our Minister for Health please elaborate further on this point? We’ve heard lots about where the private co-located beds will be but we’ve heard precious little about the construction and commissioning of these much-needed public long stay beds. As for the medical admissions units – these just are another form of co-located beds where patients wait for an in-patient bed having been seen in A&E. This is co-location with a difference. No posh conditions will be found here! Patients will simply be re-located to these temporary holding bays in an effort to ease the overcrowding, and the trolley count, in A&E on any given day.
The failure to provide adequate funding for our public health system is costing lives. But it’s not about saving patients’ lives, is it? It’s all about co-locating them.