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Co-located Hospitals

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May I add my voice to concerns about evolving health sector strategies.

Why is the State offering extraordinary returns to investors in the health sector when it can easily raise the finance at less than 3% per annum? How can the Government justify subsidies of up to 47% by way of tax breaks to investors in hospitals and, on top, having to make annual payments to these investors to cover rents, fees, dividends, interest and profits? It is nonsense for investors to suggest that the State would gain from the resultant PAYE and VAT as it would be getting these if it financed the hospitals in the first instance.

By any standards, Ireland already have an inequitable two-tier health system and the Minister of Health's current policies will result in a fragmented and highly discriminatory three-tier system. What is really needed is an uncomplicated single-tier system where care is based on need rather than capacity to pay. The Government has no mandate to develop a "for profit"  health service and opposition parties should, ahead of the next election, pledge to roll back all measures aimed at  privatising key health services. They could also usefully address the need to convert the VHI into the a form of compulsory health insurance for all and let a much diminished private insurance industry concentrate on the private healthcare sector.

The Minister's plan to transfer beds from public to private hospitals is akin to re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic except that in this case they are being moved from steerage up to first-class. This measure is being presented as progress but it is, in reality, privatising and cherry-picking by the side door.

Instead of pursuing this zero-sum game, the Minister of Health, her department and HSE should review why  Ireland's health spend (as a % of Gross National Income) has risen above the EU average notwithstanding that the proportion of our population aged 65+ is only two-thirds the EU average. Is this because we are more prone to sickness and accidents than our EU counterparts (e.g. drink- and traffic-related), or because we get bad value from existing services (overpayment and underperformance), or because resources are mismanaged (too many administrators and offices and too few doctors and beds)? Findings and needs, not ideologies, should govern strategies aimed increasing rather than reducing equity.

This letter was published in the Irish Times on 24th August 2005.

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This page contains a single entry by Brian published on August 23, 2005 2:28 PM.

Effectiveness of Dail was the previous entry in this blog.

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