Irish people are among the lowest users of medical care when compared with other OECD countries. This is the result of a public management review by the international Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
It says that the number of surgical procedures in Ireland each year is low, while on average patients who are admitted spend more time in hospital than they would in most other countries. This is possibly due to serious difficulties in finding adequate convalescent or nursing home care in Ireland.
The report says that the Republic of Ireland has around twice the OECD average of practicing nurses, and that between 1995 and 2007 the number of employees working in the health sector rose by 73%.
It calls for stronger governance arrangements and the sharing of information between the Health Service Executive (HSE) and the Department of Health, so that the Health Minister is fully aware of developments when making statements. This is not more than common sense, but sadly it is exactly one of the traits Mary Harney lacks.
In relation to the planned hospital re-organisation in the Northeast, the report says that primary care teams need to be put in place before services are removed from hospitals, and that the government could look at having two hospitals, one regional and one general, in the region.
The report states that the HSE may be "trying to do too much at once" and is not actively looking at what it can achieve and deliver in the short term. It also needs to sell policy changes to the population.
Overall, the report says that the health of the population is good and improving at an exceptionally rapid pace. So it seems that despite all our problems in the health sector there is still some hope then...
However, one has to read the OECD report on reform in the Irish public sector with a pinch of salt, since it was commissioned by the current Irish government.
The Emerald Islander