herald

Thursday 21 September 2017

HSE defends spending €250k on its 'essential' internal staff magazine

Councillor Ann Norton
Councillor Ann Norton

Disability campaigner Ann Norton has hit out at the cost of an internal HSE staff magazine, branding it a waste of taxpayers' money after it was revealed that it cost more than €250,000 to produce.

The spend on the quarterly Health Matters magazine between 2015 and 2016 was revealed to Fianna Fail TD John McGuinness following a Dail question.

"The magazine has been produced in its current format since March 2015 following a comprehensive procurement process," senior HSE official Mary Brodie wrote to him.

"In 2015 and 2016 a total of eight editions were produced at a net cost to the HSE of €251,790.

"This includes the cost of a professional editor provided by the supplier of the service, layout and design, distribution and the production of an e-zine circulated to all staff on email."

The magazine is also printed, with a current print circulation of just under 20,000 copies each issue.

Ms Norton, who is an independent councillor in Clare and a member of the HSE West Health Forum, said the amount was "crazy" money.

"The HSE is not there to provide magazines for staff, they are there to provide patient care," she said.

She contrasted the €125,000 a year spend on the magazine with "the song and dance" the HSE made late last year about providing a €600 drug for intrathecal baclofen therapy (IBT) for her daughter, Nicole, who has cerebral palsy.

Caring

"Instead of producing magazines, the HSE should be using its resources on caring for the sick," said Ms Norton, who is a director of the Clare Crusaders Clinic, which does not receive any HSE funding.

It has to raise €250,000 each year so it can continue to provide a range of therapies to more than 500 children.

Ms Norton said that for €125,000 a year the Clare Crus- aders could hire three more therapists who could provide an additional 117 hours of therapies a week.

An HSE spokeswoman that Ms Brodie's letter to Mr McGuinness covered the rationale for Health Matters, the costings and the procurement process that was put in place.

She said the letter explained the ongoing commitment by the HSE to the magazine and the function it serves.

Ms Brodie's letter said the HSE has a staff of more than 100,000.

She claimed that "providing reliable and trusted information and updates to and from our staff" was an "essential part" of the HSE's role as an employer.

"Health Matters, the national staff magazine of the HSE, is an important channel for the health care system to keep information flowing both to and from our staff," she said.

She added that the printed magazine plays a central role in team engagement and communications.

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