Wednesday 16 October 2019

New HSE boss 'is accounting for every cent' of spending in health service

Reid warns of 'increased demands'

Overhaul needed: Health Minister Simon Harris PHOTO: FRANK MCGRATH
Overhaul needed: Health Minister Simon Harris PHOTO: FRANK MCGRATH
Claire Murphy

Claire Murphy

The new director-general of the Health Service Executive has said that he is assessing "every euro and every cent" of spending in the health service.

Paul Reid, who started in the role last week, had already issued a memo to senior managers in the health service last week, saying they must start living within budget or be held accountable.

Yesterday, addressing the Oireachtas Health Committee, he said: "It is a very challenging environment of assessing every euro and every cent that we have and where we currently put it.

"My early assessment is that if we continue to put it into the current system of congested acutes and building outpatients, we will continuously make slow progress."

Mr Reid also said he visited the mortuary at University Hospital Waterford after concerns were raised by consultant pathologists about inadequate facilities. He said he recognised the facilities were not compliant with contemporary requirements.

The HSE chief told the committee that there were now 3,388 consultant posts in the public health system.

He said that 359 were unoccupied and the biggest area where they were unoccupied was in psychiatry.

Other issues, including a backlog in cervical smear tests, the cost overruns at the National Children's Hospital and the delivery of Sláintecare, are also part of the committee's agenda.

Fianna Fáil's Stephen Donnelly told the health committee that the number of people on long-term hospital waiting lists had jumped by 800pc in three years.

Mr Donnelly said there was a "postcode lottery" across different areas of the health service.

The health spokesman criticised access to outpatient care, adding: "Right across the system, access is becoming worse and worse and worse.

"For the first time ever, we have more than 550,000 on the list for outpatients.

"The longest lists ever is a massive geographic variance. There's a postcode lottery going on, and it's different for different parts of the system."

Mr Reid said the health service was continuing to deal with increased demands.

"It remains a fact that waiting times are too long," he said.

Health Minister Simon Harris added that the country's population was "rapidly changing", which meant changing healthcare needs.

He acknowledged the health service needed to "radically change" to meet the needs of the public.

Meanwhile, Mr Donnelly has said the suggestion of a private entrance at the new National Children's Hospital was "morally repugnant" and that it flies in the face of the vision set out by the Sláintecare report - that all citizens will have universal access to healthcare.

During discussions, Mr Donnelly raised recent media reports which claimed that the new hospital would include a private outpatients' department.

The clinic, which would be funded by taxpayers, would reportedly feature eight consultation and examination rooms, a play area, its own reception and waiting room, as well as a private entrance.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News