Wednesday 20 November 2019

Eilish O’Regan: Every euro wasted is a betrayal of the vulnerable

EVERY euro wasted by the Health Service Executive (HSE) is a betrayal of the patients and other vulnerable groups who depend on it.

While it frequently boasts about the "savings" it has made in shedding staff, centralising services and cuts in perks, the reality is that serious weaknesses in financial controls still exist.

The virtue of these hard-hitting and thorough investigation reports is that they were drawn up by the HSE's own internal audit office.

It is performing an essential watchdog role on its own colleagues and systems. It is also the case that much good practice is uncovered.

Some of the lax controls are blamed on lack of adminsitrative staff, but there is also plenty of evidence of carelessness with taxpayers' money.

Primary care centres are hugely expensive and amount to a major financial undertaking.

But the unit of the HSE that deals in multi-millions has been found wanting.

The HSE has ongoing problems with its information technology systems, lapses which have been exposed again and again.

Much of these investigations took place last year when the HSE was announcing cuts in areas such as home help hours .

This year more rationing is under way, although it is being done in a covert way. Despite denials by health officials, it is becoming more difficult for people on low incomes with serious illnesses, like cancer, to get discretionary medical cards.

Health Minister James Reilly and HSE official Laverne McGuinness were caught off guard at a recent Oireachtas Committee on health and children when they spoke of the increasing scrutiny the applications for these cards face.

Their removal is causing much distress to many people.

The HSE may have moved on from generous bonuses for managers and expensive travel that characterised its early years, but many of its basic systems still suffer wastage.

Until these are tackled, people who are at its mercy will lose out.

Irish Independent

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