Two of the most important people in Irish health circles are Mary Harney, the Minister for Health, and Professor Brendan Drumm, the CEO of the Health Service Executive (HSE).
The HSE is, essentially, responsible for the day to day running of the health service. These are the head honchos. The buck stops with them.
For years, doctors and nurses in Ireland have felt anger at both these public figures. They have lectured us on cost cutting, and the need for increased efficiency. In fact, professor Drumm is one of the main reasons why I chose to continue working in Australia, rather than going home to Ireland. I was visiting my family around christmas two years ago, and he came on the radio at my parents' house. He was giving a rousing oration, where he told the public how the front line staff in the Irish Health Service need to look at themselves, and to work harder, and to work more efficiently.
This, to me, was a disgusting thing for a fellow doctor to say, while Irish doctors (including pregnant women) were still working shifts up to 48 hours long. I decided then that I would never work for a service with a man at the helm who was more concerned with populism and passing the buck than he was with the overworked demoralised staff doing their best in crappy conditions.
Here is a man who has lost touch with the grass roots.This is a man who gave up his job in the understaffed specialty of children's oncology to earn big money running the HSE.
Also, and this is VERY important.....professor Drumm spoke out criticising excessive bonus payments for senior HSE staff back in 2007/8. This fact will become important later.
Then there's Harney, our erstwhile Minister. She has achieved a degree of popularity recently by "taking on" the "professional elites" such as doctors, pharmacists and nurses. In fairness, I do owe her a degree of gratitude, as her treatment of junior doctors mean I no longer feel homesick in Australia, as there are as many Irish doctors working here than I've ever worked with at home.
One of Harney's favourite pastimes involves telling the public how healthcare workers are costing us too much.
So, here we have Professor Drumm telling us we're not doing enough for our money. And Harney tells us we get too much money.
Now, you would expect this pair of reformists to lead by example, if they're going to tell the workforce in a third world health system to tighten their belts and work harder.
However, in a shocking development, which will rock the very foundation of the state, it has emerged that both Harney and Drumm are.......
Talking out of their asses.
We all know that expenses and bonuses are part of both political and business life. I expect a servant of our country to be able to fly first class, so they can do their work on the plane. I expect them to stay in a hotel with a business centre when they're away. I even expect people running the health service to get a bonus when things are going well.
So, what do we know about Harney and Drumm's financial package?
Well, we know that Harney and her husband (!?!) ran up a bill of almost 70,000euro over 3 years in JUST hotel and limousine costs. That's about 23,000 euro per year. On hotels and limousines!!!!!! How often was she going away???
Then it emerges that she refuses to travel on commercial jets when going overseas. Instead, she insists on using the government jet. So, over the same period she ran up a ill of 750,000 euro on flights. That's a quarter of a million euro every year! This jet costs 7,000 euro per HOUR to run. This only the information that is available. The Freedom of Information Act in Ireland is so difficult to navigate that it is almost impossible to discover the full extent of the financial laxity within government and senior civil service ranks.
Now let's look at Brendam Drumm. He's just been awarded a 70,000 euro bonus for doing so well in navigating our country towards a world class health service. This is the man who gets 430,000 euro per years as a basic salary. This is a man who was so critical of HSE bonuses before they were dangled under his nose. This is a man who has presided over a HSE which treats its junior doctors as glorified slaves, and has closed children's services in our major kids hospital.
In Ireland, there are half a million people unemployed. The self employed who built the country get no social welfare when their business goes bust. Those lucky enough to get some government support are entitled to 204euros per week. There are little children who desperately need spinal surgery, and have been told we can't afford the service.
I don't know how these people sleep at night. But I guess the presidential suite at the Waldorf,or a flatbed sleeper on a government jet helps.