Saturday 21 April 2018

HSE under microscope as budget woes grow

Tom Lyons

Health agency is €145m in the red

The Department of Health has begun an independent external review of the entire Health Service Executive amid growing concerns about its "worsening" finances.

The review by British healthcare expert Mark Ogden comes as the State faces pressure from the European Union and the IMF to reduce its collossal €13bn-a-year budget. Last week Ogden interviewed five senior executives in the HSE including its chief executive Cathal Magee, the former Eircom executive, and a raft of others.

Dr Ambrose McLoughlin, secretary general of the Department of Health, wrote to Magee on May 29 to inform him of the review as part of a radical shake-up of Irish healthcare by the Minister James Reilly in response to the economic downturn and the HSE's out of control spending. The HSE admitted it was €145m over budget already by the end of March, it emerged last week amid serious concerns about the standard of treatment in the Mater, Beaumont and Tallaght hospitals.

"I remain seriously concerned about the apparently worsening state of HSE finances," McLoughlin told McGee in a letter seen by the Sunday Independent. "I do not need to repeat here the wider issues and the first order importance of delivering safe services within budgets and improving quality wherever possible," he added.

In the terms of reference for the review the department bluntly describes the financial performance of the HSE as "apparently worsening", amid "growing concern about the effectiveness of HSE controls".

The decision to launch an independent review by the department is a sign of its growing frustration.

The State wants the HSE to reduce its budget by another €750m this year in response to Ireland's economic crisis -- but instead costs are rising.

Ogden's team also includes Bairbre NicAongusa from the Department of Health and Brian FitzPatrick, a healthcare specialist.

Ogden is chief executive of the National Health Service North West in Britain. He has been asked to provide "assurance about existing processes"; identify where cuts or improvements could be made in the short and medium term; and provide insight into how to transform the delivery of healthcare in Ireland.

Ogden interviewed Magee last Tuesday as well as meeting other key HSE executives including Liam Woods, finance director and Laverne McGuinness, national director of integrated services.

Sunday Indo Business

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