Minister spends €500k to tell us HSE is in crisis
HEALTH Minister James Reilly has shelled out another €569,000 from his Departmental budget for experts to assess Ireland's crumbling healthcare system.
This brings the total spend by the HSE on external consultants to €1.8m so far.
And a spokesman confirmed that this will not be the last time experts are drafted in.
The consultants have been hired until approximately the end of the year to assist the Department of Health's Special Delivery Unit (SDU) in tackling waiting lists.
Minister Reilly has put hospital treatment and waiting lists at the top of his agenda and is sparing no expense in asking for outside help.
The Minister's spokesman said that this kind of expertise was required to address the "deficiencies"..
"Of course we do understand in the current climate and with all the pay cuts that people are going through, a consultant on €200,000 a year people will think that's an awful lot of money," he told the Herald.
"But you have to pay this to get the expertise that will make a difference. The whole point of it is to have the expertise, but we haven't had it so far. It isn't there in the HSE."
The SDU has calculated there are probably 350,000 names on the outpatient list.
The spokesman said that a lot was duplication and that, in fact, approximately 87,000 people were waiting for treatment.
"We need to find out if our hospital system is capable of dealing with that extra weight on its shoulders. These experts will measure the capabilities and capacity of hospitals, and write a manual about how all of this will work," he said.
However, he was keen to point out that the consultants hired by the SDU were only temporary.
"The minister said, 'Keep it lean and mean. We don't need to have a permanent thing in place. If you have to -- purchase this expertise.' It is not a question of producing reports," the spokesman said.
"Somebody has to be responsible whereby targets have to be met, or else be in breach of contract."
He pointed out that thousands of staff have left the HSE and health services within the past four months, but patient demand has not reduced.
"The health services are having to do more with less. I don't know how you can tune up the engine of the health service without this level of expertise," he said.
And the minister has plans to pay more for expertise down the line, if required.
"There will be more money spent on consultancy," he confirmed.