Tighten your Belt

Well, it’s finally happened. The economic downturn is upon us, our public finances are under severe pressure and major cutbacks in healthcare spending are anticipated. Our already ailing health service is set to suffer even further and it almost goes without saying that patient care will be compromised.

Brendan Drumm, the HSE chief, believes that in the present economic environment, the health service could face five years without any extra funding. He also believes that there is no reason why the standard of health service provision should suffer as a consequence. Our Minister for Health, Mary Harney has warned that hospitals must operate within budget and must do so without impacting on patient care. We’re told that the way our hospitals are being run is both ineffective and inefficient. I turned on the news last night to hear that hospitals across the country are facing a scaling back of services with staff cuts and ward closures. One hospital has already accused the HSE of gross neglect of patients and claims that the cutbacks are being done at the expense of patients. A spokesperson for the HSE insisted that patient care will not be compromised by the cutbacks. Who do they think they’re fooling?

My biggest fear is that patient’s lives will be put at risk by these further cutbacks in spending. There is already a serious problem in our hospitals with the level of healthcare associated infections (HCAI’s) such as MRSA and Clostridium difficile. Poor cleaning, overcrowding, inadequate facilities, lack of infection control staff, poor management and a lack of accountability have all contributed to unacceptable levels of infection and death within our health system. There is also growing public disquiet. We are constantly promised that improvements are “planned” or “under way” but how can this be so when cutbacks in basic front-line services are being simultaneously requested. This is not the time to talk about cutbacks and the necessity of hospitals staying within budgets. The HSE has lost sight of the needs of the patients. It increasingly prioritises bureaucracy and finance rather than health, with numbers and budgets taking precedence over real people and care.

We are once again being asked to tighten our belts. Brendan Drumm says that it is the duty of everybody, including the health service, to use taxpayers’ money more effectively. This is all very well and good but could someone please explain why this situation has arisen after a whole decade of unprecedented economic growth? Is there any Government accountability left in the area of healthcare?

UPDATE: In case anyone ever thinks I’m exaggerating about the state of our health service, have a look at this post which can also be found over at Irish Election. It details the experience of bringing a child to A&E and is a classic example of how the system is failing to provide emergency care. This post completely mirrors my thoughts.

13 Responses to Tighten your Belt

  1. Mike says:

    Anyone who thinks your overreacting needs their head examined Steph
    Where the accountability!
    I mean how hard can it be to clean a toilet in a hospital on a regular basis

  2. You know, I can’t help wondering if it wasn’t when “management” and “government” got involved in healthcare in a truly meddlesome, instead of doctors doing what they’re supposed to be doing, that things started to get really out of hand.
    It’s dire, Steph and I don’t think for one minute that you’re overreacting – in fact, I doubt the case can be put strongly enough.

  3. Grannymar says:

    I think I should buy a gas oven… well I would save on food, heating oil and I wouldn’t need a Health Service.

  4. Steph says:

    Thanks for your response folks!

    Mike – I have my head examined regularly but not because of anything I do or say! 😉

    AV – Lovely to hear from you again. I do miss your insights but then, good things never last for forever 🙂

    Your theory is spot-on. The HSE has recently acknowledged that it wishes to put medically trained personnel back into management, to sort out the running of our hospitals. It has also proposed a voluntary redundancy scheme to reduce the number of superfluous managers presently ‘working’ within the HSE. They are learning, slowly but surely.

    Grannymar – NO! NO! Not yet, please. Your recipes are a vital part of the equation. They are the food of life. They giveth back what the health service taketh away 😉

  5. Angry Tech says:

    Maybe if we made all of those government bods that make these decisions, use the services that they are effecting, rather than the private health care that they all have, they might change their perspective somewhat!?!

    Cynical, me?

  6. Steph says:

    Hello Angry Tech and Welcome!

    I’d say, with the work that you do it’s very hard not to be cynical. I’ve lurked over at your place a couple of times since Robin sent me a link and enjoyed reading about your exploits. Rather you than me though!

    btw Thanks for your support for Decisions for Heroes. It’s still early days but looking good. There’s no stopping that guy!

  7. Mike says:

    Can you see goverment bods lying on an A&E trolley for 3 days without a shread of dignity?
    Dont think so
    Hope you get better soon Steph

  8. Steph says:

    Mike

    Another blogger (who’s spent a lot of time in hospital) wrote to me recently to propose that a camera link could be set up between a busy A&E Dept and The Dáil so that our politicians would be exposed to the reality of life at the front line of healthcare. I thought it was a great idea.

    Now there’s something you could work on, Mike!

  9. Mike says:

    Steph

    youd be better getting them to lie on an A&E trolley for 12 hours on a Saturday night and experience the real distress of A&E

  10. Baino says:

    Sorry Steph, late again . . this is incredulous! The more I read these posts, the angrier I get . . angry too that the Irish people aren’t rising up and spitting chips.

    “The health service could face five years without any extra funding”. Who are these people, what planet are they living on? Or is Ireland not bothered by the flow on effect of rising petrol costs which simply make the cpi explode! It’s simply unforgivable. it’s not quite as dire over here but hospital spending is a ‘state’ responsibility. The states receive funding from the Federal Government but how they spend it is their business. With rising petrol prices, the amount of Goods and Services Tax (VAT) has also risen (it’s a flat 10% tax) and we are hopeful that this extra revenue in government coffers will be used wisely on education and health (then again . .probably a false hope!) I share your frustration.

  11. Steph says:

    Cheers! Baino

    Better late than never. It’s always good to hear from you whenever 😀

    I’m so pleased you share my frustration. When I read some of the statements that come out of the HSE, my blood boils that they can get away with it. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out that you can’t improve a failing health service if you’re introducing severe cutbacks at the same time. The figures simply don’t add up. I just wonder how many more scandals it will take before Irish people unite and demand a better health service.

  12. Cliodhna says:

    All i can say is that its about time the nuns ran the hospitals again.
    Was there the amount of infections then as there is now and they knew how to run a hospital on a budget and never compromised on patient care or staffing cleanliness

  13. Steph says:

    Welcome Cliodhna

    You’re absolutely right. The nuns made a far better job of running our hospitals but unfortunately they got wise and spotted a quick buck to be made and that’s why we’re in the mess we’re in today!

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