What a mess! Ireland seems to be a poster child of how not to run a public health care system. It seems like some new health related scandal is in the news every week, and I have yet to meet an Irish person who is satisfied with the job the Health Service Executive (HSE) is doing.

The HSE was set up in 2004 to “improve, promote and protect the health and welfare of the public.” From what I have observed so far, it is just one huge bureaucracy overflowing with middle management and consultants. A whole lot of talk, and not much action.

Here are some examples of the appalling money mismanagement that have been in the news lately.

Daily Irish Mail Tuesday, April 8, 2008

In Cork’s Mercy University Hospital, a €5 million, state-of-the-art Admitting and Emergency (A&E) unit has been in disuse for over a year, due to the HSE’s failure to provide funding to staff the facility.

A multi-million euro hospital in Tullamore is sitting empty because the HSE has not allocated funds to staff it.

A multi-million euro A & E in Portlaoise hospital has been sitting empty for over a year due to lack of staffing.

In 2007, The Daily Mail printed a photo of a €1 million CAT scanner still in its box in a hospital laundry room. The hospital had stored it there because there was no staff to operate it. A similar situation was recently exposed in an East Cork hospital due to staffing deficiencies.

From what I can glean from the papers, internet, and talking to people, these problems are not due to lack of funding, but because of incredibly poor planning. The HSE seems to have these grand plans which they throw a lot of money at, but they don’t bother to look at the long range needs around the plan. So the country ends up with state of the art medical facilities and brand new equipment that sit idle for months on end, because the HSE hasn’t had the forethought to hire the staff to run all of these new projects. Meanwhile, there is a 7 month wait for people with questionable spots on their lungs to get a CAT scan. If that questionable spot is cancer, you could be dead before you are even diagnosed! (There will be more about long waiting lists, misdiagnoses, and people lying on trolleys for hours in future posts.)

The country ushered in a new Taoiseach (The equivalent of the UK’s Prime Minister) this month. There was hope that he would make some sweeping changes in the way the government was run, including replacing Mary Harney, the current Minister for Health and Children. Sadly though, it appears that holding the status quo is going to win the day.