Wednesday 17 January 2018

Health services must be delivered within budget

Policy of sending mentally ill patients abroad being reviewed
Policy of sending mentally ill patients abroad being reviewed

A LACK of efficiency, poor spending controls, poor value for money and a failure to achieve stated goals. With those harsh words, Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman John McGuinness yesterday castigated the performance of the health services. As yet another hefty over-spend was signalled, Deputy McGuinness capped his criticisms by calling on the secretary general of the Health Department and the chief executive of the Health Service Executive to resign. We appreciate the PAC chairman's justified indignation.

We know that public anger over the handling of the recent medical card review will compound public dismay about many aspects of our health services. But we must also beware of facile remedies – especially those being mooted in the heat of the moment. The problems in our health services – especially suspicions that taxpayers are not getting value for money – have been with us for decades. Yet, if you go back over the last 20 years, you will find that five talented politicians who were household names and from a variety of parties have tried to put some order in the health services. In 1992 Labour's Brendan Howlin became Health Minister and was succeeded two years later by Fine Gael's Michael Noonan. In 1997 Fianna Fail's Brian Cowen took over and was succeeded by Micheal Martin also of that party in 2000. In 2004 Mary Harney of the Progressive Democrats took over and held the post until January 2011.

Some of these people made progress in some specific sectors. But all of them juggled with budgetary problems which have never been really tackled.

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