The HSE hit back at a critical report into Ireland’s health service, saying the report should not have relied solely on patient feedback and was strongly influenced by Ireland’s law on abortion.
Health Minister Leo Varadkar also took issue with the report’s emphasis on abortion and said it was an issue that should not have been ranked.
In the latest Euro Health Consumer Index, Ireland is down from 14th position in 2013 to 22nd in 2014, behind Spain, Italy, Slovenia, and Slovakia. The Netherlands stays top, gaining 898 out of a maximum 1,000 points, followed by Switzerland, Norway, Finland, and Denmark.
The index is compiled from a combination of statistics, patient polls, and research by Health Consumer Powerhouse, a Swedish-based private company.
“The fall in ranking reflects a decision by the Health Consumer Powerhouse not to take into account any published waiting list and waiting time data and to draw its conclusions only from the results of commissioned surveys of patient organisations about waiting times and not from health service performance data,” said the HSE in a statement.
“The ranking, which is based on a range of measures across the health service in each country, is strongly influenced by access to health services and waiting times, health insurance, and Ireland’s legal position in relation to abortion.”
While conceding that Ireland performed badly on waiting times, Mr Varadkar said the index also showed that we did well on patient outcomes.
“I think in many ways, this survey confirms the view that Irish health service is good once you can get access to it,” he said.
“Our worst score is for our low rates of abortion. Many people would see this as a matter of opinion and ethics rather than something to be scored on.”
Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher described the report as damning in its finding that patients have lost confidence in official waiting lists.
Arne Bjornberg, chairman of Health Consumer Powerhouse, conceded Ireland’s ranking with regard to waiting lists was decided on the basis of patient organisation feedback.
“Patient empowerment is on the level of Romania; waiting times as long as in Sweden (which is bad!); and health care inequity is evident,” said Dr Bjornberg.
“After six years of persistent patient criticism, the official waiting list data have lost credibility. As a matter of principle, in the EHCI 2014 it was decided to use the patient organisation feedback to score Ireland on waiting times. This accounts for the drop from rank 14 to 22.”
Dr Bjornberg also criticises Ireland’s abortion laws. “Ireland has no longer a total ban on abortion, which is an improvement, but abortion still requires approval by people who are frequently 50+ men,” he said. “This is a far cry from abortion being a woman’s right.”
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