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Abolish the HSE?

The first proposal to abolish the Health Service Executive (HSE) was made by Joe Behan (independent, Wicklow) in the course of an adjournment debate (Dail Eireann, Debates, 27th May 2010, 687-9). He cited, as his reasons, its failures to care for vulnerable children and at the other end of the age spectrum the lack of strategy and services for older people, especially in respite care, home help and day care, as well as the shutting down of HSE nursing homes. He also quoted figures of 41 children going missing from care in 2007 and a total of 441 from 2000-7. He appealed to other members to join forces to demand an end to ‘this monstrous bureaucratic experiment called the HSE. It is dysfunctional, dangerous and defeated’. It no longer commanded the confidence of the house and should be bought to an end.
Replying for the government, the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Health and Local Government, Michael Finneran reaffirmed the government’s commitment to the HSE as a single national authority. While he understood the deputy’s concern, the strategic reason for abolishing health boards and other agencies to replace them with a single national authority remained as valid as ever.
Separately, some statistical information on the health services became available. First, the Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney, confirmed to James Reilly (FG, Dublin N) that the government had a target of reducing health service numbers by 4,560 (full-time equivalents) by end 2012 (Dail Eireann, Debates, 18th May 2010, 404-5). This was broken down into 60 in her department, 60 in state agencies and 4,560 in the HSE and the voluntary bodies it funds. Second, she told Bernard Durkan (FG, Kildare N) that the total number of medical card holders had risen from 1,155,727 at end 2005 to 1,518,973 at the end of March 2010 (Dail Eireann, Debates, 18th May 2010, 417).