As our national day approaches it seems appropriate, if entirely disheartening too, that our national metric of dysfunction in health services — the number of people waiting on trolleys in A&E wards — has reached a record.
At one point yesterday there were, according to the Irish Nurses’ and Midwives’ Organisation (INMO) 714 patients on trolleys, the highest number recorded. Under the HSE’s system of calculation, there were just 534 but this figure does not include patients moved from A&E to wait for a hospital bed.
It is more than disheartening though that this sorry point has been reached despite a litany of assurances from health ministers that the situation would be resolved. That those assurances were echoed, even if in a qualified way, by administrators adds to the disappointment but they confirm international findings that we pay an above the peer average for health services but get below average outcomes.
It seems fair to suggest that if this situation could be easily resolved it would have been. It also seems fair to suggest that the scale of the problem, and the investment suggested by some health service leaders to resolve it, seem out of control.
The HSE chief Tony O’Brien will leave his position in the summer. His successor, just like the next garda commissioner, will have to resolve toxic legacy issues before they can even think of building for the future. Is it any wonder that the cycle of dysfunction seems unbreakable?