Questioning the priorities of the HSE

[Speaking in the Seanad during Order of Business]

I am fairly upset about two health administration related issues which have come to light during the break. One was the announcement that the HSE was sponsoring a symposium by Professor Kaplan of Harvard for 300 assorted HSE employees on the question of value for money, and paying the professor, it is rumoured, €50,000 for his seminars with untold other expenses involved in the setting up of the meeting. There was a vague promise that sponsorship is being obtained from extra statutory sources, perhaps from people who have contacts to provide services and goods to the HSE.

I did an MBA in health care many years ago pretty much with the express interest of finding out why professional bureaucrats kept telling people like me that we knew nothing abut running the health service and I found out that perhaps we knew a little bit more than they thought we did. I am appalled by this. I am also appalled a the sheer scale of the lack of proportion in hosting an event like this, which may cost several hundred thousand euro, at a time when we have lengthening waiting lists, when medical cards are being plucked out of the hands of people who have had them for many years, when deaf children are waiting for a year to hearing tests, when patients in hospitals are waiting for weeks to get scans done which are delaying their treatments, delaying the release of beds and clogging up the system is appalling.

I would like Professor Kaplan if he watches “Oireachtas Report” tonight in the Merrion Hotel, or wherever he is staying, to be aware of a few things if he is trying to preach to us about value for money. We have managed to provide a health service with the smallest number of specialists per head of population in every single specialty known. We have the smallest number of physiotherapists and speech therapists who provide an extraordinary service often in Dickensian circumstances. We have a real priority problem if they think that we are not delivering value for money.

Second, I alerted this House before to the fact that the press PR spokesperson from the HSE was issuing threats to a medical journalist who took part, in a very reasoned fashion, on the contentious debate about discretionary medical cards and whether people were having their prior discretionary medical cards removed. It is completely inappropriate that the HSE can have money lying around to hire Mr. Connors to act as its press spokesperson so that he can then try to throttle debate in our democracy on issues that are of critical public importance. Again, it goes to the heart of a bureaucracy which is gone mad.

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