The need to investigate the nature of hospital boards

[Speaking in the Seanad during Order of Business]

I am very troubled by one of the less commented-on aspects of the recent controversy regarding top-up payments in hospital boards, charities and so forth, namely, the structure of the boards of many of our hospitals and voluntary hospitals. At least two of the largest hospitals in the State, which derive their income virtually entirely from State funding, have boards that do not include even one publicly appointed, publicly elected or publicly accountable member. In the case of one hospital, the board is appointed entirely by the former owners of the hospital, who left a legacy arrangement to ensure it is in perpetuity a Protestant board, and in the other there is a similar arrangement, with input from the Dublin archdiocese. There are other arrangements like this throughout the country, and it is not confined to formerly Catholic, clerically run institutions.

Some type of system of accountability must be put in place. For a start, there should be an ability to put in freedom of information requests on every organisation that receives public funds. That should be a bare minimum. In addition, there should be a legislative effort by the Government in that regard. There is an unusual situation in Ireland. We have a public hospital system in which many of the hospitals that provide a service are not publicly owned. They are owned by boards that get their money from the State, but without any input from the State. All kinds of dysfunctions have arisen from that, and the most recent reports indicate another level of dysfunction. Will the Leader consider scheduling a debate with the Minister for Health on the governance structures of our hospitals, particularly as we are apparently to transition toward an all-insurance based model?

One Response to “The need to investigate the nature of hospital boards”
  1. John Ryan says:

    About time that question was asked. It has been avoided because politicians allow vested interests to control how taxpayers money is spent. Why bother having a Public Accounts Committee at all ?

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