PARTIES MUST GET TOGETHER OVER HEALTH
There are two essential requirements for a high-quality, value for money Health Service: political agreement on a clearly defined, long-term strategy and operational competence in implementing that strategy. While ongoing political oversight will be required, there should be no political interference in day-to-day operational decisions.
Current political uncertainty about long-term Health Strategy and the role and authority of the HSE can only serve to undermine efforts to resolve existing disputes and reform the overall structures, in order to deliver a better service and extract more value for money from the system.
Could the main parties agree a "Tallaght Strategy" approach for Health? While this would require a squaring of the ideological circles between the main parties in order to agree an overarching long-term strategy, our political leaders need to acknowledge that almost any compromise strategy, implemented effectively, would probably deliver more value for money and better public service than the existing chaotic system.
With only two months to go to the general election, the alternative coalition is threatening, if elected, to overturn a key element of the current Government‘s strategy - the co-location of Public and Private hospitals on existing public sites. From its inception, the HSE has been plagued by ongoing political interference in key operational matters e.g. the Government obliged the HSE to retain all the existing staff of the 11 health boards instead of achieving significant economies through the amalgamation. The HSE is charged with negotiation of new contracts with the consultants, but it is very clear that the cabinet is still calling the shots.
In parallel, the vested interests will continue to exploit the confusion in order to pursue their own narrow interests and extract the maximum amount of money from the seemingly bottomless public purse.
Any downturn in the economy will leave the rest of us with the heavy burden of an overstaffed, overpaid, under-delivering public service - further limiting the funds available for the health service in future.
In the national interest, we urgently need a coherent long-term health strategy which enjoys cross-party support.
Footnote: Published today as a a letter in the Irish Independent.
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