Culture of dysfunction in health services needs to be challenged – IMPACT

IMPACT national secretary Louise O'Donnell
IMPACT national secretary Louise O’Donnell

IMPACT national secretary Louise O’Donnell has told the Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar TD, that there is an inbuilt culture of dysfunction in Irish health services which threatens its future.

Ms O’Donnell made the comments in response to an address by the minister at the union’s Health and Welfare divisional conference in Ennis, County Clare, this morning (Thursday 7th May).

Ms O’Donnell explained that IMPACT members work throughout the health system. “This gives us a good oversight of the breadth of services that the Irish health sector delivers but, unfortunately, it also gives us a bird’s eye view of how dysfunctional it is. This is not to take from the good work that is carried out by staff throughout our health services. On the contrary, the recent staff survey actually shows the degree to which these staff are happy to go the extra mile to deliver the service” she said.

“The focus to date has always been on the delivery model. There is a mistaken belief that if the delivery model is changed it will resolve all issues. This is a bit like repainting a car when the engine has seized up and hoping it will start again” she said. Ms O’Donnell added that what was missing in the health sector was a strong foundation on which to build a reform programme.

Ms O’Donnell said that results from a recent health service employee survey, Have Your Say were damming. “It reflects very poorly on the HSE as an employer. Having looked at the results, I thought management would call the unions in, set up a task force, or at least take some action to start addressing the issues that have been raised. We are well placed and very open to that type of engagement, we pride ourselves on problem solving and our members believe passionately in making the health system work better for everyone that walks through its doors.

“Sadly, to date, we’ve had nothing. And I think this betrays the dysfunction at the heart of the health system. Having been presented with the evidence of where the problems exist, the HSE is essentially ignoring its own findings, and still expects staff to engage and participate in the programme of ongoing change within the health sector” she said.

Ms O’Donnell added “Information sharing is the key. It always puzzles me as to why there is such a closed mentality in parts of the health sector to sharing information. We may not like the changes but if we are left trying to guess what they are, rather than having the full facts, then we have to default to a defensive stance of non cooperation. Information sharing needs to become part of the culture in order for this to change.”

A copy of Louise’s full speech is available HERE and a copy of Minister Varadkar’s speech to conference is available HERE.