Monday, September 13, 2010

No accountability in Irish Health Care system

At tonight’s monthly meeting of Waterford City Council we discussed the 2009 Annual Report of the South Regional Health Forum. I make no apologies for my robust criticism of the forum and the H.S.E. In my view the Forum is a talking shop at best and in no way holds the public health care providers to account. That is not to take from the good work of those councillors who sit on the forum and represents their respective councils and counties well. It is a reflection on a health system in which no one takes responsibility and everyone passes the buck.

Here is an example of this Pontius Pilate imitation at work. In July of this year Waterford City Council discussed the much needed 50 bed geriatric facility on the grounds of St. Patrick’s Hospital. Later that month the Minister for Health said she did not know when funding would be released for the proposed new unit. The unit was promised when the HSE closed St. Brigid’s ward at the hospital last October.

On the 13th of July Waterford City Council received correspondence from Minister Mary Harney and the Department of Health and Children acknowledging the questions raised by the council and stating that responsibility for service provision rests with the H.S.E. Note the buck passing. A day later the council receives a letter from the H.S.E. again acknowledging the issues raised and referring the matter to the regional director of health operations for the South. Note the buck passing again.

The H.S.E, the Minister for Health and the Department for Health and Children are incapable of providing basic answers to straight forward questions. Is it no wonder that the health service has seen so many scandals like the misdiagnosed miscarriages? The H.S.E. is a farce of an organisation that is unaccountable and desperately in need of reform.

HSE CEO Prof Brendan Drumm warned the HSE board last April that the beleaguered health executive was at a "tipping point" and faced a crisis, after the board vetoed key components of his plans for HSE reform. He also wrote to Department of Health Secretary General Michael Scanlan expressing frustration at the pace at which HSE reforms were being implemented.

I wish the new Chairperson of the H.S.E. Waterford’s Mr. Frank Dolphin the best of luck in his new appointment. He surely has his work cut out. A good start would be to replace the regional health forums with local community health partnerships which genuinely allow local politicians and others to hold health service providers to account.

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