Health service and hospital trolleys


Sir, – Muiris Houston correctly identifies politicians and senior HSE managers as the “main culprits” for the failings of our health system that have led to intolerable scenes of overcrowding in hospital emergency departments throughout the country (“Politicians and HSE to blame for our health service debacle”, Analysis, January 5th).

It is true that previous attempts at reform have ended in failure, stifled by vested interests, incoherent planning, inefficient bureaucracy, and the loss of political drive and momentum. It has seemed that with each new Minister, we have had a new plan.

But if politicians are central to the problem, they also hold the key to the solution.

Seven months ago, a cross-party committee of TDs published a ten-year blueprint for a radically reformed health service, called Sláintecare.

For the first time, we now have a fully costed plan based on a shared political vision for an affordable, universal, single-tier healthcare system, where patients are treated promptly and effectively on the basis of need, rather than ability to pay.

It is abundantly apparent that Sláintecare is now the only game in town, and the Minister for Health has accepted this.

Yet progress has been frustratingly slow. Last August, I asked the Taoiseach when the head of the implementation office for Sláintecare would be appointed. I was told the post would be advertised shortly. I asked the Minister for Health the same question in the Dáil last September, October, November and December. Each time I got the same reply that “the post will be advertised shortly”.

It is time for our political system to do the right thing – we need to see real action in 2018 to deliver lasting reforms that put people at the heart of a radically transformed system of health provision. – Yours, etc,



Social Democrats,


of the Committee

on the Future of Healthcare,

Dáil Eireann,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – On the feast day of the Epiphany, it is amazing that we can work out that there were three wise men based only on the fact that three gifts were handed over.

Yet after 15 years of winter hospital trolley misery, we still can’t work out how many hospital beds we need. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – The entire population is furious and rightly so at the debacle that is the HSE but our Taoiseach remains only “frustrated” (News, January 5th). Our Minister for Health advises people to stay at home if ill, quite a contradiction as to the purpose of hospitalisation and dangerous as it invites self-diagnosis. Our Taoiseach asserts that despite three years of increasing budgets, more staff, more beds and more homecare, there has been no improvement. When you throw the kitchen sink at a perceived problem to little or no effect surely it might occur to somebody that the issue is one of management or more precisely mismanagement.

I am sure I am not alone in understanding that nobody has been held to account for this continuing chaos from the Minister to senior management.

Performance such as this would not be tolerated in the private sector and action would be both swift and brutal. – Yours, etc,


Bray, Co Wicklow.

Sir, – Having worked in our hospitals for a number of years, and having also worked abroad, I have no doubt that this annual “crisis in our emergency departments” is primarily due to a lack of spare capacity within the hospital system.

However, this annual problem, follows the Christmas holiday period, a period of two weeks during which our hospitals and much of our community health services are run on a skeleton staff. I have attempted to contact staff in different hospital departments over the last few weeks, only to be told the department was either closed or staff were on holidays.

May I propose that from this coming December, the health service functions as normal throughout the month, and that we keep holidays and department closures to a minimum? – Yours, etc,



Arbour Hill,

Dublin 7.