Wednesday 13 December 2017

5 reasons Minister may well want out of Health

Simon Harris. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Simon Harris. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

1. Broken promises: Simon Harris rarely stopped telling us about his €40m "winter initiative" last autumn to tackle the winter trolley crisis. But by early January, hospital gridlock was at an all-time high.

A stark 612 long-suffering and mostly elderly patients were waiting for a bed, many parked in noisy corridors. Doctors warned it was leading to unnecessary deaths. His colleague Simon Coveney must be fuming as Cork University Hospital has endured a torrid winter of overcrowding.

 

2. Record waiting lists: The number of public patients in some form of queue waiting for surgery or an outpatient appointment has spiralled since he took over. The pain and distress endured by young scoliosis patients, as a theatre lies idle, is just the tip of the iceberg of the extent of misery among the seriously ill who are in an endless queue. When the 'hidden list' is added to official figures a staggering 630,000 face delays.

The €20m fund to buy private treatment for a few thousand patients will make little dent. It is also a cosmetic solution, so once the money runs out the lists will soar again.

 

3. Industrial strife: Nurses are threatening a work-to-rule and even hospital porters may be on the picket line next month. The anger among nurses over under-staffing is past boiling point. But the Department of Health and HSE are ill-equipped to compete with the NHS and Australia poaching home-grown nurses.

Similarly, some posts for hospital consultants are getting no applicants.

 

4. Bad blood: Relations between Simon Harris and the HSE are fraught. He has made a big deal about poor performing managers. But most of these are wiley veterans and are going nowhere. They believe they are a convenient scapegoat and a shield he is using to deflect the criticism of an irate public from himself. And they are more than a match for the young minister with little work experience outside of politics. His predecessor Leo Varadkar had bitter rows with the HSE too, but he was much more feared. Mr Varadkar is a more tactical politician.

 

5. Badge of failure: There are signs Mr Harris will continue to drown in the quagmire of the health service. For a young man in a hurry, who is not short on ambition and bursts of arrogance, that is a millstone he can do without. Enda Kenny put a lot of faith in him, giving him the portfolio. But was it too much, too soon?

Irish Independent

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