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A most unhealthy state of affairs

THERE is a mote in the eye of HSE chief Brendan Drumm.

What is needed, he says, is not more hospitals, beds or frontline staff, but an accountable, ‘depoliticised’ health system.

Accountability? The CEO, who heads a small politburo of advisers, is the ‘accounting officer’ for a spend of €14 billion. He answers only to a presidium of 12 ministerial appointees and the minister for health. Dáil questions take months instead of days to answer.

Transparency? The 2004 Health Act contains several veils.

‘Confidentiality’ covers “proposals of a commercial nature or tender”. Its definition is a matter for the HSE.

There is also the burqa of “clinical judgment” which prohibits queries relating to patient care and obliges patients to take their complaints to the Medical Council.

No shortages of frontline staff, beds, or hospitals?

Ireland’s stock of acute public hospitals, beds and doctors falls hugely short of international standards, as stacked-up ambulances outside Dublin hospitals and 22,000 cancelled operations, year on year, attest.

HSE’s politically-driven ‘change’ programme will close 40 of our 53 acute public hospitals, radically cutting access to essential hospital services for hundreds of thousands of people.

Patient safety is being sacrificed to medical hubris so that careers, reputations (and money) can be made from esoteric subspecialties in prestigious urban, academic institutions, while other hospitals that have served their communities well for many decades are shut.

As technocratic and corporate interests engulf the social model of health in our elitist, warped and inequitable system, how convenient to be no longer hamstrung by a democratic health system, with its regional boards, public meetings reported by a pesky press, and pestilential politicians.

Marie O’Connor

Health Services Action Group

42 Rathdown Road


Dublin 7


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