Sick of health service crises: Money can cure latest problem

Former taoiseach Brian Cowen once described his tenure at the Department of Health as akin to Angola, because administrative “landmines” (like a prolonged nurses’ strike, while having to deal with problems of bed shortages and overcrowding in hospitals) could detonate without warning.

He might now wish to reconsider that cynical comment, in view of the fact that Angola has been enjoying relative peace and stability since 2002, while Ireland’s health service remains in a perilous state, lurching from one crisis to another.

The latest, as our report today reveals, concerns a poor level of ultrasound service for pregnant women, an essential component of the National Maternity Strategy launched last year by another former health minister, and now Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar. It will take at least two years before scans to pick up foetal anomalies can be made available to all expectant mothers. Why? Because the money required to recruit the necessary number of sonographers is subject to an administrative landmine of sorts. It will not be known how much funding is available until the HSE service plan is approved and that could take until the end of the year, causing unnecessary anxiety and distress to hundreds more pregnant women.

This is a problem that can be solved with money — in which case, it need not be be a problem. The Government must defuse this landmine and make the funds available now.


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