HEALTH Minister James Reilly’s on his holidays at the moment.
It appears that he was taking a break through April, May, June and July too – if letters sent by HSE boss Cathal Magee are anything to go by.
The minister seems to have been asleep at the wheel as the outgoing health chief Magee wrote a series of increasingly urgent letters to the Department of Health over months on the HSE deficit.
As Magee repeatedly asked for policy directions on the HSE’s deteriorting financial position he got few, if any useful answers.
In April he stated that he needed guidance from the Department of Health on how overspending would be financed.
In May he again asked for the Department’s guidance, this time on what activities hospitals should cut back on to make savings.
In June the HSE boss wrote that he had been waiting for a response on how to deal with financial challenges since February.
The HSE boss received replies to his letters. These stated that officials would draw up proposals to be considered by the Minister.
Finally, in June, the HSE was told that an independent expert had been commissioned and, meanwhile, it was up to the HSE to cut its own costs.
So, after six months of spiralling overruns the HSE is now in an even worse position – and Minister Reilly is nowhere to be seen.
The HSE is still overspending and its managers still want to know what services they should cut to stop the system haemorrhaging money.
Why has the Minister for Health not confronted the potentially catastrophic cash crisis in the HSE? It was known about since late 2011.
Is he running scared? Or does he find it easier to stick his head in the sand?
This post first appeared in the Evening Herald, August 2, 2012