Health system is like 70s comedy ‘MASH’, says IPA

Officials behind health service budget cuts are "not facing up to the preventable funerals" their painful slashing of supports is causing.

Irish Patients Association chairman Stephen McMahon made the claim after a leaked HSE document insisted that the era of health cuts must end now — and be replaced by a “realistic” funding approach.

As reported in yesterday’s Irish Examiner, a still unpublished HSE report drawn up in March, has raised significant concerns over the impact of ongoing cuts to the service.

The report, which has only emerged as the final details of Budget 2015 are being discussed, was written by then health minister James Reilly’s special adviser, Martin Connor, for HSE director general Tony O’Brien.

It said that the era of “brutal” cuts, euphemistically described as “performance and productivity gains” had now “run their course”,

Specifically, the document said these reductions had been imposed in an “arbitrary” fashion and with little knowledge about the impact, both medical and financial, the policy had on the system in the medium-term.

Due to the “brutal fiscal consolidation” involved, the report warned that Ireland’s health spending, which has fallen by almost 25% since 2007, has been reduced by a far greater extent than other areas, and that the Government was “not sensitive” to the risks this poses to the public.

Reacting to the findings, Mr McMahon said the still unpublished document underlined the danger of continued cuts to the system.

“The patient must be first, but the system is not facing up to the preventable funerals and injury to patients it is causing from shotgun budgetary controls.

“We warned about the impact of brutal fiscal surgery, with subsequent serious patient safety implications.

“But what I’m hearing from the frontline is that our health care system is now like [1970s US TV show] M.A.S.H., with war-time triage,” he said.

The report called for multi-year funding hikes “at least” in line with inflation, as well as a cross-party review of spending to ensure “realistic minimal” funds were available.

It was leaked as Health Minister Leo Varadkar and Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin continue to be locked in tense talks over the allocations of Budget 2015.


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