Mad Asset Stripping

Date:

A quick article following on from the publication of 'The Lie of the Land' by the Irish Psychiatric Association looks at the dealings of the HSE recently in terms of some land dealings.

Sometimes along comes a story – and it surprises you because even though you have a jaded view of this corrupt society, they go and do something that jars you.

I find myself using the elongated version of un******believable. They are not going to steal this from the most vulnerable in society so that they can give some of their friends in property development a nice new project to work on. Yes they are! Who are they? The Health Service Executive is who they are.

Them & Us

The HSE are seldom out of the news these days. As we all know – with the hiring freeze implemented late last year – the bean counters are worried about balancing the books as far as the HSE is concerned. Of course to the citizens of this land, actually having a functioning health service that ensures that people get the care that they require is more of a priority for us.

Evidence for the prosecution from the IPA

Then along came this news, which appears to give evidence to the prosecution, that the HSE and the state are more concerned with balancing the books than with the well being of patients.

A report from Irish Psychiatric Association (IPA), 'The Lie of the Land', lists instances where land that was adjacent to psychiatric hospitals is being sold off cheaply, or even given away for other purposes. Some of the allegations in the report concern

• Two acres being given away by Wicklow Mental health services to the local county council "at no recompense.”
• In Donegal at St. Conal’s Hospital about 20 acres was given to the county council for social housing.
• In Mullingar the €3.5millon that St. Loman’s received for lands which they sold was put back in the HSE coffers. The IPA are annoyed that this money was not earmarked for spending on the mental health services.
• In Portlaoise two acres from a 40 acre site were used to build a new Garda station on. Money was paid but it was undisclosed.

The problem is that this is the reality of what goes on; and it comes two years after the publication of a document called ‘Vision for change’. This outlined a plan to sell State mental institutions and use this money to improve mental health services in the community. Instead the reality is that there are cosy deals going on between the state and big business again.

What makes this truly despicable is that when they make announcements of plans – it is ushered in with a fanfare. When they steal from the tax payers, give land away to developers, or take the funds away from people who are in desperate need of real medical care, they just put added pressure on a system which is according to the IPA “on the Verge of Collapse.”

Co-location

Another illustrating fact in this report is that a site in Beaumont hospital which was supposed to have an acute psychiatric unit developed on it has now been re-allocated (doublespeak for stolen) towards a private co-located hospital. Make sure to thank the Green party for their U turn on this policy when next you see them. The new psychiatric unit was to replace St. Ita’s, a gothic looking Victorian building in Portrane which has been around so long, it features in a Beckett short story. The message is pretty clear. Mental health patients and the staff who care for them can rot in ancient buildings whilst we steam ahead towards a privatized two tier health system with the official Harp stamp of approval on it.

As the authors of ‘The Lie of the Land’ report say, "The trend apparent to the authors suggests that psychiatric services represent an easy target by planners and managers to appropriate assets to meet shortfalls in current and capital expenditures of general health services."

Why do we have to await the publication of a report by a professional body to reveal such corrupt practices? Dr Siobhán Barry of the IPA was quoted in the Irish Times as saying "The political system is clearly complicit in this process.” I think free press which doesn’t break stories like this is equally complicit.

Look at the real figures and invest

Finally – look at what we spend percentage wise on health. Whilst the bean counters balance books for the HSE the real figures on a national level are as follows. We spend 7.5% of out Gross domestic product on health; the EU average is 8.7%. When we look enviously at other health services, it should be in our minds that they all spend more on their health service. France spends 10.4% of GDP, Norway 10.1. So in real terms we spend the same percentage as we did back in 1987. Those are the figures, and perhaps it would be wise if the Health Service Executive concentrated on them, rather than on getting money through dodgy deals with developers in order to plug holes in the books today. We need to be investing in the health service and not stealing from it, or expecting it to pay for itself.
 


From Workers Solidarity 102 the issue for March & April 2008

 

 

PDF of the Ulster edition of Workers Solidarity 102

PDF of the southern edition of Workers Solidarity 102
 

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