and the health service
'Opinion'Good lead story by Zoe Tunney in the Demo of March 15th in which the Ballyshannon lady zoned in on the paradox of the HSE owning land and dozens of buildings around the county to the value of €340 million at the same time presently paying €1.5 million to landlords to rent their premises. While possessing a vast property portfolio, many of the buildings lie empty, while the private sector lines its pocket from lettings to the blue-chip rentor.
What I dont understand is, if you have an exclusive expose like that, why restrict it to three columns of a seven column front page, especially when two of the other stories on that page werent worthy of being there; and how could the lay-out people make such a mess of the headline.
Anyway, I wont detract from Ms Tunneys research and writing though I feel the article could have been expanded by asking other relevant questions eg. How much did the old health board pay for the properties did it have to borrow any of the money if so, how much interest per annum was, or is, being paid; and is the former headquarters in Manorhamilton fully utilised?
There is another way of looking at it. Though not meant to be, the purchase of those properties was probably a very good investment. Between 1995 and 2007, the value of each unit should have more than doubled. The years 2000 to 2003 saw the stock-market go south rapidly, before starting a recovery but the value of property kept rising, well out-performing the exchanges. An investment in bricks and mortar was definitely a good decision by anyone with a few bob to spare in the mid-ninties.
What the HSE should do is sell off unused and redundant sites all over the country. Take Donegal Town eleven buildings are owned or being rented by the HSE. There are acres (literally) of land out beside the Services Centre or on Revlin why not one building to house the lot. An investment is only really of value when it is realised. My bet is that there are billions of euro worth of such sites all over our amazingly rich island.
But my other bet is that, even if these investments were liquidised, the vast amount of money realised wouldnt make a blind bit of difference to the health service in its current form. Until archaic restrictive practices and god-like positions are amended or abolished, our health service will remain in the doldrums no matter how much money is pumped into it. Bureaucracy and a top heavy management structure absorbs obscene quantities of spondolicks leaving the residue to trickle down to the people on the ground.
The whole nationwide structure is the proverbial big black hole into which huge amounts of dosh are being poured each year and yet all people perceive is a slowly crumbing structure. The experience of the Dutch father and son, detailed in our last issue, is the norm rather than the exception.
From night-calls to A&E, from cancelled operations to long waits to see a specialist, it all seems to be going downhill. Everytime a reform is mooted by government, the sector affected threatens all types of action, and the mandarins back off.
As a lay person, I dont know the answer, but would suggest the position of consultants should be looked at. If the cozy cartel at the top is tackled - and their numbers expanded - perhaps the benefits would trickle down through the ranks and the glimmer of a modern 21st century health service would be visible in the distance.