Reasons to be hopeful for health in 2011

Despite the hefty cut to the health budget in the year ahead, the HSE Service Plan launched in Christmas week provides some rare optimism for 2011. By Sara Burke

HSE CEO Cathal McGee (pictured) launched the HSE Service Plan for 2011 three days before Christmas. Once again the HSE is planning to improve patient care with less money and fewer staff. So what, if anything, is different about this plan and can they really do it without hurting patient care?

Further revelations about unorthodox partnership funds at PAC

At a long session of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on 16 December, there was further grilling of Michael Scanlan, Secretary General in the Dept of Health and Cathal McGee, HSE chief (pictured) on the unorthodox SKILL fund and new information on another health services partnership fund. By Sara Burke

No relief for sickest and poorest in Budget 2011

Listening to Brian Lenihan's Budget speech, you'd think the health services were going to be untouched by austerity in the years ahead. Although health services make up 27 per cent of current spending, they are just under one-third of the €2.2 billion in cuts outlined, yet they did not even get a mention. By Sara Burke

VHI in dramatic stand-off with private hospitals

The current stand-off between the VHI and some of Ireland's most high profile private hospitals may result in privately insured patients with VHI cover having to pay more for their care. So, what's going on and why now? By Sara Burke

Every year the VHI negotiates new contracts with Irish private hospitals. The fees the VHI pays for private patients in public hospitals is set by the State but what it pays to private, largely profitable, hospitals is negotiated on a one by one basis.

National Recovery Plan severe on health, but may soon be irrelevant

The four-year National Recovery Plan outlines budget cuts for health totalling €1.4 billion, 6,000 fewer staff in the public health system and patients having to pay more for essential healthcare. So how painful will it be in the years ahead for the health services? And will the policy aspirations actually happen given the inevitability of a change of government...

HSE redundancy scheme a fiasco

The HSE early retirement and voluntary redundancy schemes closed at midnight on 19 November. So are these schemes the solution to getting rid of surplus HSE staff or just another example of inept health service management? By Sara Burke

The schemes are a way of cutting down HSE staff numbers but they are another exemplar of ineptitude of its architects – the Department of Finance and the Minister of Health. The numbers applying are well below the target, the scheme was totally unplanned and is being badly managed.

Enough is Enough

If there was some level of societal consensus around what is 'enough', we could plan for a very different type of society, not just for a few but for all. By Sara Burke.

I have had enough. Enough of our failed political leaders whom the majority of people no longer support. Enough of the same economics those same old political leaders are trying to persuade us will get us out of this mess, even though it is the very same economics that got us into the economic crisis we are in.

Less tax means lesser services

The majority of Irish people say they don't want to pay more tax. But what if those taxes guaranteed quality public services? By Sara Burke.

It's a no brainer. If we pay American amounts of taxes, we will have American-style public services. If we pay European amounts of taxes, we will have European-style public services. We can't and won't have good quality public services unless we pay for them.

'Unacceptable disregard for the law' in relation to nursing home care

In an unprecedented move, yesterday afternoon Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly (pictured) laid a report before the Houses of the Oireachtas entitled 'Who cares – An investigation into the Right to Nursing Home Care in Ireland' – this "own initiative report" – the first of its kind by Ombudsman O'Reilly is damning of the Minister for Health, the Department of Health and the HSE on their failure to meet their obligation to provide nursing

The €2bn health cure that won’t make us sick

It is possible to cut HSE spending without diminishing frontline services. Here's how... writes Sara Burke.

Brian Cowen is right – the choices are stark. The confirmation that next year's budget will be more draconian than already flagged gives even greater import to Mary Harney's statement that up to €1 billion will be cut out of the 2011 health fund. It also helps to focus the mind on the reality that the size of the chunk taken out of health and how it is divvied up are wholly political choices.