Missing In Action

minister-for-health

Have you noticed that our Minister for Health, Mary Harney has been ominously quiet of late? What’s going on at the Department of Health? Leadership has been notably absent despite the spiralling chaos in our health service.

This is what Senator Fitzgerald, Fine Gael Senate Leader and Spokesperson on Health, has to say about Harney’s silence…

Silence from Health Minister as co-location big idea looks increasingly shaky

“In 2005 Minister Mary Harney announced her co-location big idea claiming it would deliver 1,000 extra beds ‘in the fastest and most cost-effective way in the next five years.’ Almost four years later, not a single brick has been laid and not a single bed opened.”

“Recent media reports revealed that six Beacon head office staff have been let go and senior management have agreed to pay reviews. Considering this group has won three of the tenders for co-located hospitals, it’s financial condition is pivotal to the project. Together with the lack of bank credit for developers, the whole project has to look increasingly shaky. The HSE’s own service plan for 2009 notes that projects will only be progressed to completion phase ‘subject to satisfactory banking arrangements’. The current crisis in banking does not bode well for the co-location project yet the Minister has had nothing to say on the subject.”

“Whilst co-location remains uncertain the reality for patients is that 500 existing public beds are currently closed and the Minister has rubberstamped a HSE plan to remove 600 more. The Minister is actively reducing capacity, not increasing it and the HSE are seeking a further €900 million in cutbacks for 2009. The result is her big idea is terrible news for patients meaning less isolation facilities to stop the spread of MRSA, more overcrowding in A&E, more cancelled operations and longer waiting lists.”

“The crisis in the health service continues unabated in the first two weeks of 2009 but the Minister for Health is missing in action. Many of the ongoing problems began long before the present financial crisis but while responsibility rests with this Government, leadership is absent. In December, the Minister signed off on the closure of 600 more acute beds and the slashing of €900 million from the health budget before riding off into the sunset. Instead she should be telling us how she intends to deliver long-promised reform, beginning with tackling waste and inefficiency in the back room rather than constantly hitting the front line and hurting patients.”

Well-said! Senator Fitzgerald. My thoughts exactly.

Source: Fine Gael website – Latest News 12/13 Jan ’09

UPDATE: Sara Burke, journalist and health policy analyst, may be able to solve the Mystery of the Missing Minister for us. She believes that there is currently a stand-off going on between the HSE and the Minister. You can read Sara’s excellent analysis here.

Source:  Irish Times online 29/12/08.

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