It may seem counter-intuitive that as 760 people languished on A&E trolleys this week HSE boss Paul Reid would suggest we have, at 29, too many emergency departments.
The Government will spend €80.4bn this year. More than a quarter — €21.33bn — is earmarked for social protection. Health, at €18.3bn, is the second-highest cost and, in a country of just under 5m people, seems as if it should be at least sufficient to avert the chaos seen this week. Mr Reid’s suggestion is matched by others calling for more beds and strengthened community care. Unfortunately, persistent mismanagement remains a major, unchanging factor too.
This is confirmed by the news that just as the trolley crisis set records the HSE may have to pay unbudgeted millions because it missed a five-year deadline to upgrade computers for free. The HSE must pay millions to Microsoft to supply emergency protection to try to prevent hospital IT systems being hacked. Microsoft’s obsolete Windows 7 loses worldwide security support next week. Imagine the A&E chaos if computer systems were needlessly overwhelmed as well.
As the HSE relies on political and public support the fact those responsible for this multi-million blunder will face no consequences is more than significant. The HSE may argue that it needs fewer A&E departments but there is no argument that this slapdash waste of resources is unacceptable. Mr Reid needs to do more than close A&E facilities.