Wednesday 16 October 2019

John Masterson: 'Sure, we would do anything for the children'

Undated artist impression issued by Children’s Hospital Group of the site of the new state-of-the-art children’s hospital in Dublin (Children’s Hospital Group/PA)
Undated artist impression issued by Children’s Hospital Group of the site of the new state-of-the-art children’s hospital in Dublin (Children’s Hospital Group/PA)

John Masterson

My jaw hasn't spent so much time on the floor since we wasted about 50 million on the electronic voting machines. Then a few million more storing them in a shed somewhere.

No one even got their knuckles rapped for this profligate waste of our money. We could have built a good few schools with that money. Or houses. Maybe some community medical centres. We could probably have given every child in the country an iPad. No one would have batted an eye because we cherish our children.

I do wonder if "children" wasn't in "children's hospital" would the powers that be have been so careless with the money they deduct from you and me every week, every time we have a pint, go to a restaurant, fill up the car or buy health supplements.

I cannot for the life of me see the same mess if we were building a badly needed university in the south east. Or completing the Kilkenny Ring Road. Come to think of it, the National Roads Authority is quite good at coming in on time and on budget.

I know a road is not as complicated as a hospital but maybe we should have put them in charge. Along with the Revenue who are very good at keeping an eye on money.

Even if the hospital budget increases by an electronic voting machine every five minutes we are told not to worry because it will be "the best in the world".

I don't remember us ever being asked about this gold standard. For a small debt-laden island I would have thought we would have been happy with a very good hospital, appropriately staffed and with easy access to families all over the country.

The list of things out of Ireland that have the best in the world tag is not long. We can cite U2 and Glanbia among other examples of which we are justifiably proud. And guess what? The Government didn't put a penny into any of them.

And when we have eventually built this 'best children's hospital in the world' I assume it will be run by the HSE. I cannot recall seeing the word 'best' in a paragraph about that organisation unless the words 'budget overspending' were nearby. There is a pattern.

We have many top-class medics in our system. I heard Prof John Crown talking enthusiastically to Pat Kenny last week about advances that have been made in the treatment of cancer. Here was a man who loves his job. And in passing he mentioned how many more consultants we really need in our health system. It was a biggish number and would cost a lot of money. But it was small change when I listen to the children's hospital budget.

One of the best ways to see what values a person holds is to look at how they spend their money. The same goes for governments. Our leaders have decided that they would rather have one 'best' than spend money on a lot of 'below standard' that require improvement.

It is beyond me why the hospital won't be built off the M50, or in Athlone or Portlaoise. There would have been lots of money left for all the other things we need in the health service. And they could have afforded 20 helicopters sitting outside for the rare occasions when a child needed to be airlifted to London.

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