Thursday 21 September 2017

Political interests infect every move to reform health system

Health Minister Simon Harris with Dr John Murphy at the National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street, Dublin Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Health Minister Simon Harris with Dr John Murphy at the National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street, Dublin Photo: Colin O'Riordan

Eddie Molloy

About 18 years ago, when I was invited to engage with the Department of Health, I requested copies of relevant documents that I should read in advance of meeting with officials. A few days later, two men in a van arrived at my door with two large plastic crates containing over a hundred reports, plans and reviews. Since then, successive health ministers have added a few hundred more to the pile and this week yet another review of A&E overcrowding is promised.

A year ago, Tony O'Brien, CEO of the HSE, told a Dáil committee that there is no shared political vision of the health service, and a week later Taoiseach Enda Kenny commented: "...and that's why everything is haphazard". In this context, the most important initiative taken by Health Minister Simon Harris has been to establish the all-party Future Health Committee, chaired by Róisín Shorthall TD. Its task is to seek political consensus on a 10-year vision for the health service, a clear picture of what it will look like in 2020.

In the midst of the latest A&E crisis, there is general agreement that nothing short of a fundamental reorganisation is required if our health service is to provide access on the basis of need (and not ability to pay), safe care, high quality outcomes and value for the €14bn being spent on health.

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