The Health Debate

Well, actually it was more of a discussion than a debate and even though I didn’t succeed in getting to have my say, I’m glad I tuned in to Your Call on Newstalk106 yesterday. As was predicted, both our Minister for Health and the CEO of the HSE, declined the invitation to take part in a live debate on the health service. Not one to be easily dissuaded, Brenda Power went right ahead and chaired a lively discussion with a panel of experts which included a well-known retired cardiac surgeon, a GP, a health economist and Newstalk’s own economics editor plus contributions from various phone-in callers. While the opinions of the panel differed at times, everyone was in agreement that morale within the health service is at an all-time low.

The following is a brief synopsis of the opinions expressed during the programme: “We do not have a health service – we have a dysfunctional, immoral state system. Services are not joined-up and are hampered by a dysfunctional transport system. The health service is a black hole with €15 billion spent on it last year and further massive cutbacks in health spending are inevitable. The GP’s have not been consulted on hospital development plans and funding has been pulled from GP training schemes and out-patient services. Management problems within hospitals are directly affecting vital services such as cleaning. The prevalence of MRSA and other superbugs, has caused a widespread fear amongst patients of going into hospital. Over 52% of the population take out health insurance because of the rationing in the system. The National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) is ‘like a finger in the dyke’ and is not cost-effective. The NTPF pays more than private health insurance schemes to secure treatment for public patients in private hospitals and in the process, is denying access to patients who pay for top health plans. Emergency departments (A&E) are unfit for purpose. Bed capacity is a big issue and few are in agreement with the HSE’s opinion that more beds are not needed. Rehabilitation facilities are almost non-existent throughout the country. Psychiatry has been badly neglected as a service. The plans for co-located hospitals are a joke. It is immoral to have one standard of care for public patients and another (better one) for private patients. Focus should be put on the public service but there is no incentive in place at the moment. Numerous reports have been produced on the health service but they have not been acted upon. The hallmark of quality service is ‘morale’ and the present ethos within the health service is one of low trust, low morale and no sense of direction.”

So, while nothing particularly new or startling came out of this discussion, it did provide a good overview of the problems that exist. The bureaucrats within the Dept of Health and the HSE should hang their heads in shame at this long litany of dysfunction. Patients have suffered for too long without the basic healthcare they deserve. The general consensus of opinion from the panel was that trust has broken down and a change of mindset is needed if a way forward is to be found. Many feel that our Minister for Health should resign as the level of confrontation has become too great for co-operation. Progress will only become possible if the powers-that-be learn to engage with the people on the ground, and listen to their views. We can only hope this process started yesterday.

9 Responses to The Health Debate

  1. Grannymar says:

    Steph, I wonder if the Minister for Health and the CEO of the HSE will even listen to the programme tapes or read the scripts?

  2. Ian says:

    Grannymar, The health minister is utterly dogmatic and will not be persuaded. She will not resign, and nor will Bertie push her because it suits the main party’s interests to have a junior coalition partner responsible for the mess. If it gets to the point when the opinion polls are being affected by the health care chaos, he can then dump her and his people on the doorsteps can blame the PDs.

  3. Baino says:

    Steph, Grannymar has a point. Why not SEND a transcript to both the Health Minister and the CEO of the HSE? Sounds like you guys are in dire straits. We have an investigation going on at the moment into three major hospitals and our Health Minister is saying that things are improving . . .what she doesn’t realise is that January / February is a quiet time for hospitals apparently so they’re not put under their normal stresses. She too is a complete newbie to the Ministry and the health portfolio. Time will tell!

  4. Steph says:

    Hello! friends

    Thanks for leaving a comment on this depressing subject. I think I was suffering from low morale and no sense of direction by the time I’d finished with it.

    Newstalk didn’t exactly go about this debate in the best way. They hounded the offices of the Dáil live on air causing alienation instead of co-operation. Various government ministers have now refused to to be interviewed on Newstalk and the HSE has pulled it’s advertising from the station. This is not the way forward. However, they did succeed in airing many of the outrageous aspects of our health service, as well as the positives and this can only be good.

    Baino – Your Health Minister sounds likes she using exactly the same tactics as Harney! It’s just a game.

  5. Can anyone say exactly how it is that the Health Service got into such a mess. And, if so, does understanding that present any way forward to redressing the problems. I find it so hard to believe that the Irish health system, from which I once benefited, has come to this. That said, having seen what’s happened to our own health system as a result of idiotic decision-making and political one upmanship, I suppose I can well understand how it happens, but I guess I just somehow thought Ireland would be different. Hey, call me naive!

  6. Steph says:

    Thanks! AV

    Naivity is definitely not something I associate with you! Years of neglect by successive governments, is the answer to your question.

    I think most people assume that when they get sick, they will be well looked after. The majority of the time this is the case but the Irish health service has suffered from so many years of political neglect, it can no longer guarantee adequate care – no matter what’s in your purse.

    Getting into the system is a big problem here but once you get in, the care is generally very good despite appalling facilities in many hospitals. It’s the dedication of staff that really keeps the show on the road. But patience is fast running out!

  7. Caoimhin says:

    Great post Steph!
    The HSE was developed because there was a need to co-ordinate and organise the health service. The plan was doomed to failure from it’s inception because it incorporated the endemic problems that existed into the new structure. There was no consolidation and no verifiable chain of command instituted within the new framework.
    The Executive was designed by bureaucrats and not professional health care administrators. At some point these professionals will have to be consulted in order to set up a brand new system, nothing short of that will cure what ails the HSE. Unfortunately, neither Mary Harney nor Brendan Drumm are capable of these changes and whether they stay or go is of no consequence.

  8. Steph says:

    Thanks for your comment, Caoimhin

    I’m with you on this view. I’ve just found a post that may be of interest to you.

  9. Bob Walton says:

    Is government the solution or the cause of the mess we’re seeing. And, if the cause, what’s a viable solution? Perhaps a more homeopathic & natural approach to health care ought to be revisited. There’s never a simple answer to such a complicated problem.

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