November 2007 Archives

Co-located Hospitals and the Health Service

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As is evident from your letters' page, opposition to co-locating private with public hospitals refuses to go away.

It was clear before the general election that key ministers had no idea about the cost of co-location. Furthermore, the Minister for Finance, who should know better, seemed to equate its cost with the the level of tax foregone. Conveniently, he ignored the ongoing costs that will arise due to duplication of activities and resources, the operation of two separate management systems on the same site and, most critically the premium needed to cover future profits of the developers of the co-located hospitals.

In the long run, these items will be far more significant than the initial tax breaks. In addition, private health insurance subscribers will face substantial additional premiums and, at the same time, public hospitals will encounter substantial reductions in revenue to be funded by taxpayers. This is classic "lose-lose" rather than "win-win".

The Government's mandate has been to fix the health service - not to break it by allowing the private sector to selectively cherry-pick profitable niches. Valuable time and MANY LIVES have been lost as a consequence of the single-minded pursuit of this ideologically-driven approach and the opportunity to develop a single-tier, public system could be lost for at least a generation.

Instead of pursuing privatisation by stealth and hiding behind task forces and reports, the Government should, even at this late stage, ditch this warped PD ideology and start tackling the very real and obvious issues linked to management, staffing and resources. If this had been done much earlier in the ten-year life of this government, we could have reached, by now, a situation where the end of waiting lists would be in sight and the need for private heath insurance as a method of queue jumping would have diminished.

Letter published in the Irish Times on 24th November 2007.

No L-Plates for the Cabinet

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I disagree that cabinet members should wear L-plates as they seem very competent at parking issues, doing U-turns, overtaking everybody, reversing positions, using airbags, driving in bus lanes, straddling dual carriageways, using fog lights, blowing the horn and driving on both left/right sides.

Admittedly, they are not so good at route planning, driving straight, obeying red lights, negotiating roundabouts, handling slippery conditions, making clear signals and emergency stops.

Letter published in the Irish Times on 22nd November 2007.

Review Body and Public Pay

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It is clear from the reaction to the recent Report by the Review Body on Higher Remuneration that its approach of comparing public sector salaries with the private sector is inadequate. Why should Irish Secretaries General be paid more than their equivalents in almost every other country? If TD salaries are very high by international standards and linked to those of Principal Officers, what does this say about salaries at middle levels in the Irish public sector?  Buried in the Review Body's report is mention of a recent survey, covering 13 countries, that indicated that the remuneration of office holders in all the countries is WELL BELOW (my emphasis) below that of jobs of comparable weight in the private sector. Why should Ireland be so different?

It will be interesting to see if the current review by the OECD of the Irish public sector will include salary comparisons when it benchmarks the Irish public sector against other comparable countries. If it doesn't do this, how can it hope to assess effectiveness and performance given that pay and pensions account for the bulk of public expenditure.

Aside from Review Body awards and benchmarking, the main driver of politician and public sector pay has been the various national agreements which appear to mainly benefit the public sector. Because these agreements provide percentage increases across the board, workers at the lower end of the scale only receive small monetary increases and the gap between top and bottom salaries gets wider on an exponential basis. Is it any wonder that, notwithstanding the smallness of the State, our political and administrative leaders are, thanks to these percentage increases, amongst the best paid in the world?

For the future, the Review Body must be instructed by the Government to take account of comparable public sector salaries in other EU countries and national agreements should make provision for percentage increases to be applied on a sliding scale so that the lowest paid get the largest percentage increases.

Lead letter published in the Irish Times on 7th November 2008.

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This page is an archive of entries from November 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

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