Hospitals falling far short of the standard we deserve
It would appear that, despite public hospitals including the word 'University' in their titles, the services provided have deteriorated significantly and are now nowhere near 'university' standard.
A university is described as 'an institution of higher education and research', so it is misleading, and inaccurate to apply such a word to the dysfunctional medical services being managed by the HSE.
When the professional nursing staff who provide 24/7 patient care are screaming for changes to hospital conditions, then it's time for everyone to take notice.
It has become clear that the Government health policies, as provided by the HSE, are far from effective. The current systems have not worked for some time, despite additional resources being applied.
The HSE has proven to be an inefficient organisation and appears to spend a large amount of time and resources defending its position in the courts, which leaves it seriously short of any real credibility. Assuming that the Government will not be able to find a large amount of additional resources in the short term, perhaps it's now time to consider adopting the Ryanair approach to our health services - ie provide a safe, low-cost service that achieves its objectives in the majority of cases and leaves no room for customers to be left on trolleys.
If hospitals have to include the name 'university' perhaps the HSE should give way and have the Higher Education Authority take over its responsibilities.
As the Department of Health and the Minister for Health also appear to wish to distance themselves from the day-to-day provision of health services, perhaps now is the time to ask what function they are paid to perform? And how are their results measured? Keeping a Government department close to budget is meaningless if it does not provide the basic public services required.
Rockshire Road, Waterford
Patients pay price for holidays
As another January arrives, we encounter another overcrowding crisis in our country's emergency departments.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation recently announced that the number of patients waiting on trolleys had surpassed 600 for the first time.
Having worked in our hospitals for a number of years, and having also worked abroad, I have no doubt that this annual "winter surge" is primarily due to a lack of spare capacity in the hospital system.
However, it is worth pointing out that this annual problem follows the Christmas holiday period; a period of two weeks during which our hospitals are run by a skeleton staff.
Over the last few weeks I have attempted to contact staff in different hospital departments, only to be told the department was either closed or staff were on holidays.
We all want a modern healthcare system. We cannot expect to effectively run our hospitals on a skeleton service for two weeks each December, and not expect repercussions each January.
Dr Ian MagFhearraigh
Arbour Hill, Dublin 7
Haughey and FitzGerald
In response to Robert Sullivan's letter (January 7) I would like to point out that the "flawed pedigree" comment from the late Garret FitzGerald had nothing to do with Mr Haughey's financial history. The comment was made in 1979 in the context of how Mr Haughey came to be elected leader of Fianna Fail.
Garret FitzGerald pointed out that his authority as leader of that party could legitimately be questioned because he got the position through a flawed process of threats, intimidation and bullying. The hallmarks of the thug he was and of the thugs he surrounded himself with.
Mr Sullivan is also factually incorrect to infer that the debt arrangements of Mr FitzGerald were in any way comparable to Mr Haughey.
Mr Haughey was in receipt of cash donations from various businesspeople for decades in return for which he shaped Irish government policy to meet their needs at the expense of the needs of the Irish public.
On the other hand Garret FitzGerald was stupid enough to place his entire life savings and money he borrowed into a single high-risk investment, which of course went bust. As a result he lost every penny and felt honour bound to sell his only asset, the family home, to repay as much of his debts as he could. There were no secret investments, offshore accounts or other assets and Garret never owned a property again for the rest of his life.
The reason AIB wrote-off the remaining debt was not because of some secret deal, it was because there was nothing left for AIB to take. Yes, it could have forced him into bankruptcy, but even then that wouldn't have magically produced any more money.
Canary Wharf, London
Foresight needed in health care
It is shocking and unacceptable that in this day and age, elderly patients are kept waiting in chairs in A&E wards for days.
The fear, anguish and lack of dignity afforded to those who have given so much to this country can only be imagined. That nursing staff stoically carry out their duties under such difficult and stressful working conditions is a credit to them.
But this is not a problem that crept up on us. It was foreseen that with an aging population and a lack of community care that this situation was inevitable. As usual, we end up trying to solve problems rather than preventing them.
Dunleer, Co Louth
Licence fee must be reformed
Colette Browne states that RTE is in need of reform ("Broadcasting charge is wrong - what's needed is reform of RTE", Irish Independent, January 6).
As has been recognised by a number of independent reviews, RTE has reformed and transformed itself radically over the past few years: operating costs have reduced by over 30pc (€130m) since 2008; staff numbers have fallen by over 500; remuneration to top-paid presenters has reduced by over 30pc.
And yet RTE has maintained over 25 public services, from orchestras to children's channels to Irish-language services.
RTE continues to invest in the type of home-produced content that commercial competitors simply will not touch; important investigations such as the recent 'Inside Bungalow 3' or 'The Torture Files' programmes, high-quality Irish drama such as 'Love/Hate', 'Amber' and the 'Charlie' series, and factual programming such as David Brophy's 'High Hopes Choir' series, are just a few recent examples.
RTE is dual-funded because in 2013 it cost €330m to run the full range of its public services; licence fee income accounted for only €186m.
At 17pc Ireland has one of the highest licence fee evasion rates in Western Europe. RTE has achieved substantial reforms over the past five years, and that process of change continues. It is now time for the licence fee to be reformed, too.
Corporate Development, RTE