© D Storan

Hospital Consultants: This Harris fellow doesn’t know what he is doing

I was trying to think this morning what this was like, and it occurred to me that the thing it’s most like is when the players on a Premier Division Football team let it know that they have lost confidence in the Manager. “He’s lost the dressing room”, the pundits would declare, and a sacking usually follows in short order:

HOSPITAL CONSULTANTS HAVE taken a vote of no confidence in Health Minister Simon Harris following an emergency meeting last night.

The vote was unanimously passed by the council of the Irish Hospital Consultants Association at the meeting called to address what it describes as “deteriorating conditions across our acute hospitals and the detrimental impact this is having”.

Unanimous. Not one Hospital Consultant who voted on the matter has confidence in the Minister for Health, which is extraordinary. The law of averages would suggest that there should be at least one good Fine Gaeler amongst them – but apparently not.

Waiting lists are now, by any objective measure, out of control. Earlier this year, we had the rather striking headline that waiting lists have jumped by 800% in just three years:

“Those waiting for outpatients in Galway University Hospital is over 40,000, Limerick University Hospital is nearly 35,000, Waterford is at 40,000 and Tallaght is over 30,000.

“We are seeing this postcode lottery depending on whether you need to see a doctor, or physio or OT (occupational therapist).

“Given there has been an unprecedented increase in healthcare funding – nearly 3.5 billion euro extra in the last few years – with this huge increase in funding, why are people waiting longer than ever to see doctors and get treatment and get diagnostics?”

In this case, of course, unlike a Premier Division Manager, there will be no sacking. There are several reasons for this, and let’s run through them:

First, unlike managing Leicester City, which is an attractive job that lots of ambitious people want, not a single politician in the country wants to be the health minister. This says an awful lot about our politicians, of course, who desire to remain in office and do nothing much more than they desire to risk changing something in the country and risk losing their job.

Second, Harris has been an absolute disaster as health Minister, but he’s been a tremendous success as the face of the Government’s health policy. He knows that it’s important to be photographed at meetings with your jacket off and your sleeves rolled up, so that you look like you are working hard. He is a genius at finding distracting stories and initiatives to keep you looking elsewhere while Granny moans on her trolly. The latest one is Vaping.

Third, While the Minister is absolutely useless, the bigger problem is Government policy, and if you change the Minister, then you can’t blame him anymore. “Harris has made a mess of health” is a great thing to have people saying, if you are Mr. Varadkar, because nobody ever says “Mr. Varadkar has made a mess of health”. If you were to sack him and replace him with somebody competent, it wouldn’t make much of a difference because the institutional problems in the Department are so great as to make the change irrelevant. So it’s better to keep him there attracting the ire of the public while Varadkar, for some unknown reason, escapes most of the blame.

The other thing to note here, of course, is that for all that the consultants might have no confidence in Minister Harris, and be right about that, they themselves are not without blame (emphasis mine):

The vast majority of consultants who are publicly salaried staff in public hospitals have contracts which allow them to work up to a fifth of their time privately. While the national figures pan out at this 80/20 ratio of private and public work in public hospitals, Tuesday night’s programme exposed that 14 out of 47 acute hospitals persistently exceed the 20 per cent private limit. It also laid bare that even in hospitals where the overall limit is kept, a significant minority of consultants in certain specialities work well above the 20 per cent limit on site and that in some instances consultants publicly advertise their private work off-site even though this is contrary to their contracts.

That’s from 2017, so not that long ago. It is easy enough to see why waiting lists might rise in the public healthcare system if a huge number of consultants are spending far more time on their private patients than their contract permits.

Of course, Harris is simply too weak to tackle this. The health service is a monstrosity – as I have said before, we’ve put a 30-something with absolutely no management experience in charge of running an organisation the size of NASA, when the truth is that he is, objectively, not qualified to manage your local Lidl. They’d tell him he needed more management experience on his CV:

Heck, he’d probably be better off running a Premier Division football team. He’s presentable, he always looks like he’s working hard, his results are awful but a small, hardcore set of fans believe that he’s the one because he genuinely loves the club.

Remind you of anyone?

May 5, 2019 – Huddersfield, UK – Manchester United Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer during the Premier League match at the John Smith’s Stadium, Huddersfield. (Credit Image: © Anthony Devlin/PA Wire via ZUMA Press) (Newscom TagID: zumaamericastwentythree923681.jpg) [Photo via Newscom]
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