Senator calls for HSE accountability ahead of mental health report

Independent Senator Joan Freeman says public have right to know how funds are spent

Senator Joan Freeman. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Senator Joan Freeman. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

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The HSE is not accountable to anyone, the founder of suicide prevention organisation Pieta House has claimed.

Independent Senator Joan Freeman was speaking in advance of publication of a new report from the Oireachtas Mental Health committee, of which she is chair, which will make a wide range of recommendations to the Department of Health across primary care, recruitment and funding.

Ms Freeman told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that the lack of accountability within the HSE was a major concern.

She said this was most evident in incidents such as the abuse of children in foster care which was highlighted earlier this week.

“Who apologises? Is it the press office? Nobody pinpoints who is responsible.”

Another key question she said is how is public money being spent. “We don’t know how the HSE is spending money.”

There are two parts to the HSE, she said. The “hard-working, dedicated frontline staff” and then the administrators. She quoted a concerned HSE worker who spoke of “tier after tier of managers”.

Senator Freeman said a newly qualified psychiatrist is paid 48 per cent less than a colleague who qualified years ago, while a newly-qualified psychiatric nurse is paid 30 per cent less than longer-serving colleagues.

“The way the HSE recruits just doesn’t make sense,” she added.

There appeared to be a policy of waiting for a person to leave a position rather than planning ahead so there was a replacement on their departure, she claimed, adding that there can often be a delay of more than a year before a position is filled.

Another recommendation in the report is that 16 and 17 year olds can access mental health services without parental consent.

Senator Freeman explained that people in this age group can already access GP care without parental consent and said it should be the same for mental health services as in some circumstances difficulties at home could be factors.

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