Saturday, December 29, 2012

I see that todays edition of The Munster Express has published details of the working document on Customer Service Locations and Workforce Planning for the proposed merged Waterford City & County Councils. As it is obviously in the public domain already I have decided to publish the document here so that the public may see it in full if they wish. This version is missing two illustrations that I couldn't import but that doesn't change how you will understand the document.

For what it's worth, and I know this document is supject to change, I nonetheless consider that it is illustrative of the implementation committee's thinking - whereby, what we will be left with, post amalgamation, is two, weakened, split authorities rather than the one single, stronger authority that we were told would give Waterford the mass it requires. In my opinion the splitting of services is a joke. It is in-efficient, underlines geographic defferences, is bad management, is expensive and quite frankly, will eviscerate the guts out of the city.

No longer will the cities Fine Gael and Labour Councillors (with one notable exception) be able to say that this will be a positive thing for the city. Although with their spectacular volte face already performed, God knows that they will probably try and spin even this, as a positive! A so-called Gateway City without a Planning Department? If that isn't a joke I don't know what is. We would be the laughing stock! Imagine Galway City being planned from Clifden - or Dublin, from Bray. Those cities would not accpet it and neither should we. We shouldn't have to, but it seems we must continue to fight - now more than ever - merely to keep our city, it's jobs and its services, intact.

Ironically, what we are now getting with a split authority, is the worst of all worlds - with the much flaunted 'private sector' efficiencies being sacrificed on the altar of political parish-pumpery once again. Plus ca change. Well done, Mr Hogan. You have managed to bring us over the next few years to the level of the County Town, when we are currently the level of a County Council. I wonder will Kilkennys administration be split between the 'City' and say, Callan? You can bet your bottom dollar it will not be. Because they aren't so foolish. Ah, for people who would not play the Ministers' vile and damaging game. Alas for Waterford.

For what its worth here is the Working Paper:


Working Paper on Customer Service Locations

and Workforce Planning

The attached document represents a preliminary view of the Waterford Local Government Committee regarding the location of services and workforce planning. It has been prepared for the purposes of initial consultation with staff and political representatives and for further detailed analysis by the Joint Management Teams and senior staff of both Councils.

It has to be emphasised that proposals in the document are consequent on very significant assumptions that may be valid or not and consequently significant change may occur through the process. The issues will revert to the Implementation Committee in early February for consideration following detailed analysis and consultation.

A. Issues That Have a Bearing on Customer Service Location and/or Workforce Planning

1. Customer Service - Population Distribution

There are nearly 70,000 people living within 10 miles of Waterford City and the remainder of the County having relatively low population density with the exception of Dungarvan and its immediate environs. The population distribution needs to be taken into account when considering the delivery of services and the formation of Municipal Districts.

It is inevitable that there will be significant additional demands for services in Waterford City arising from those living in the East Waterford area. The single objective of the amalgamation has to be to ensure that customer standards are at the minimum sustained and where possible improved in the new entity.

2. Political Structure

The Report of the Waterford Local Government Committee saw merit in dividing into three sub county areas, namely, eastern part of county, central zone and west county. The Local Electoral Boundary Committee will define these boundaries and submissions will be made by either the individual Local Authorities and/or the Implementation Committee.

Other configurations may be considered by the Boundary Commission.

Appendix 6 of “Putting People First” outlines reserved functions that could be transferred to Municipal Districts and the extent of these functions will have a bearing on staff servicing demands.

The status of the Mayoralty of the Metropolitan Area, the role of the Leader or Chair of the Council and the functions assigned to the Municipal Districts are all issues that will impinge on workforce planning. They are, however, along with other issues, matters that will be provided for in impending legislation and are not within the remit of the Committee.

3. Specific Provision for Economic Development in Putting People First

It is the intent that a Director for Economic Development be appointed for the City and County in early 2013. This would facilitate the preparation of an Economic Development Strategy for the City and County with a particular emphasis on the Gateway. It is important that the current workload of any Director appointed is adequately dealt with. Equally the Office will ultimately require specific personnel resources as well as inheriting responsibility for the newly formed Local Enterprise Offices.

4. National Framework for Workforce Planning

A National Framework for Workforce Planning has been undertaken for the local government sector outlining typical numbers for authorities of different scale. It will be necessary to have regard to this framework when determining the future staff structure. With respect to the Management Team for example, it is envisaged that there will be 5 Directors of Service (including the Director for Economic Development) and one Head of Finance.

5. Existing Staff Distribution

The existing staff distribution has a bearing on the overall workforce planning exercise and it is an objective of the committee to generate the least possible disturbance in terms of location base of staff subject to:

• the overall goals of a fit for purpose organisation being achieved and

• necessary efficiencies being achieved through reduction of staff numbers.

6. Surplus Staff/Identification of Work Streams

It will be necessary to achieve efficiencies through a reduction in staff numbers. It is intended to commence following the local elections in 2014 with a fit for purpose organisation and consequently a surplus of staff will have to be declared under the Croke Park Agreement. Redeployment is and will be an option under the agreement but it is envisaged that the majority of the reduction in numbers will be achieved through natural wastage with some potential for voluntary redundancy (dependent on the scheme to be adopted nationally).

Accordingly it will be necessary to identify work streams for staff outside of the core future complement at the point of amalgamation and the following are the areas to be considered:

• Project work through national shared services

• Transition office for Irish Water

• Amalgamation workload (records, procedures etc) that can be deferred until post implementation

• Specific projects on economic development

• Specific projects for embedment of Health and Safety

7. Issues of Difference Between Workforces

There are differences of policy and approach between the City and County with respect to flexi time arrangements, clocking in and working hours that will have to be resolved as part of the process. Equally there are long-term acting positions that cannot be continued in the new entity and that will have to be resolved.

B. Location of Departments – Core Issues

The Local Government Committee report has previously recommended the retention of offices in both Waterford City and Dungarvan “as at present” while allowing for consolidation of services. In essence there are a number of scenarios that could be looked at for the new organisational model and these can be reflected as follows:

1. Structure on the Basis of Main Offices for Functional Areas being spread between Dungarvan and Waterford.

This would envisage primary offices for different functional areas being split between Dungarvan and Waterford with the criteria for deciding the locations being primarily based on customer demand and the level of workload currently generated at each location.

2. Structure in Line with Metropolitan and Municipal Areas.

In essence this would envisage services being delivered in Waterford City to the new metropolitan area with services being delivered in Dungarvan to the two other municipal areas. This would be unlikely to achieve the same efficiency and would possibly copper-fasten further geographic divides within the organisation.

3. Structure on the basis of the main services being provided from Waterford City with sub office services based in Dungarvan and the majority of back office services sustained there as well.

This option would cater for the predominance of customer service demands arising in the East of the County while sustaining geographically based services for everybody. There would be issues with perception of downgrading of the county town.

On balance and based on the language of the previous Local Government report it is recommended that scenario 1 be the option chosen.

C. Issues Prevailing Around The Location of Individual Services

Core Services


The extent of road network in the County is dominant from a roads perspective both in budgetary and administrative terms. There will be a need to sustain a significant department in the City for traffic, urban related and front desk services. Customer contact with respect to parking is greater for the City.

Water Services

The extent of supplies, networks, treatment systems (including water treatment for City) and sources in the County is dominant. A resource will need to be maintained in the City to provide for maintenance supervision and front desk services.


The issues in respect of planning are not as clear:

• Numerically planning applications are greater from outside Metropolitan Area on a ratio of 60/40.

• The level of engagement with large City files, however, would be far greater.

• It would be accepted that paper files for public viewing can only be sustained as a whole at one location and that core administrative functions need to be sustained at this location.

There would appear to be only two options:

1. Locate main office in City and use assisted digital services for viewing files in Dungarvan or

2. Locate main office in Dungarvan and ensure the main City files are available for viewing in the City.

Ideally validation of files, acceptance and receipting could be done in both locations. On balance it is felt that as a stand alone choice locating the main public office in Dungarvan is the most viable at face value. In this instance large planning files would have to be available in the City for inspection along with a significant digital service. With respect to professional services, development management will have to be provided from both locations while forward planning can be based in either but should probably be located with Economic Development in the City.


The Environment section in the future will be solely regulatory and planning in function and as such can reside in either location. The extent of county natural amenities would suggest siting in the County as most suitable with enforcement officers sustained in both locations.

Economic Development

It is envisaged that a Director of Services with sole responsibility for economic development will be appointed. As the Gateway function will be a primary focus it is envisaged that this office will be based in the City and that it would include the Tourism function.


Can reside in either location. Front office services will have to be maintained in both locations with greater demand envisaged from the higher population areas in Waterford City. A key challenge in the longer term will be to transition services to online while debt collection currently represents (and will do so in the future) one of the greatest corporate challenges. The extent of local revenue raised in the City and immediate environs will have to reflected in the service provision.

Cleansing, Parks and Open Spaces and Amenities

These services are primarily City based and need to be located and headquartered in the City.

Housing and Community

The extent of social housing in Waterford City and the social issues pertaining suggest that the main base for this service will have to reside in the City.


The library headquarters could possibly be located in either Lismore or Waterford. The user profile, staff situation (Co. Librarian acting only) and book storage capacity suggest the City as the primary site.

Emergency Services

Waterford City has a full-time Fire Brigade serving part of South Kilkenny and East Waterford, while the County has retained services at various locations in the County. On balance it is agreed that the demands of the full-time service and the greater fire risk in the City would see the headquarters in the City.

Human Resources

This is primarily a back office function and could be located in either Waterford or Dungarvan.

Motor Tax

Services will need to be provided at both locations and with the greater numbers likely to use the City service it is envisaged that the Headquarters should reside here.

Corporate/ Management

It is viewed that the Corporate headquarters should reside with the political headquarters in Waterford City. It is envisaged that the Manager will be headquartered in the City while the main offices for the 5 Director of Services and the Head of Finance will be split between the two locations. It is equally envisaged that the Manager and some or all Directors will have to maintain a presence at both locations, particularly in the early days post amalgamation.


As a back office function this can be located in either location but provisionally Dungarvan is considered the preferred option.

Ancillary Services

Rural Transport

By definition needs to be County based.


This is already a shared service and is headquartered in Dungarvan.
Sports Partnership

The Sports Partnership is currently headquartered in Dungarvan and operates on a shared service basis with personnel in both locations.

Property Management

The City currently has an active though small property management section and accordingly the City is seen as the base.

Sports Facilities

City Council have the RSC, Manor St. John and Williamstown Golf Course complexes, while the County have only the Sports Complex in Dungarvan.


There probably is a dominance of investment, venues and activity in the City but services will be provided from both City and Dungarvan.

Archive Records

Waterford City Council owns it’s Archive Centre and subject to space requirements being met it would appear logical to use Carrickphierish, albeit an option may exist in the Library Headquarters in Lismore.

Internal Audit

Can be located in either Dungarvan or Waterford and may ultimately become a regional service. Question exists as to whether service should reside with Finance or not – reports directly to Manager.

Heritage and Conservation

The extent of Heritage Assets in the City probably outweigh in workload terms the Natural Heritage issues in the County.


The limited Architects section in the City should probably be aligned with the Forward Planning Dept. and continue to be focussed on urban regeneration.

D. Possible Location of Main Customer Service Offices for Individual Departments

The following table outlines in summary form the preliminary view of the Committee;

Dungarvan                                                  Waterford City

Core Services

Roads                                                        Corporate Services and Human Resources

Water Services                                           Housing and Community Services
                                                                  (incl. Community Forum & Social

Planning                                                      Economic Development and Tourism

Environment                                                Emergency Services

Finance                                                       Libraries

ICT                                                             Parks, Open Spaces and Playgrounds
                                                                   (incl. Cleansing Operations)

Motor Taxation

Ancillary Services 

Internal Audit                                               Property Management

Sports Partnership                                       Arts

Rural Transport                                           Sports Facilities

Veterinary Services                                      Architects Office

Heritage                                                      Archives and Records Management

E. Next Steps

It is proposed that given the short time frame, that there would be early sign off from the Implementation Committee in relation to a proposed staff structure.

It is intended that detailed analysis will be undertaken by senior staff throughout January for each of the services having regard at a minimum to the following:

• The validity of the preliminary assumptions

• Customer service demands

• Resource allocation and availability

• Analysis of key procedural or policy issues

• The impact of ongoing national initiatives (shared services, procurement etc.)

• Key timeframe issues with milestones identified

• Overall workforce planning

Staff consultations will be undertaken through the union/management steering and operational groups which have been set up through the Significant Change process. The City and County Managers have also committed to undertake staff briefings on an ongoing basis. A consultation and information protocol has been attached as an Appendix to this document.

The Implementation Committee will also be meeting with political representatives from both City and County and will be meeting in early February to further consider the issues.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Notes from WRH meeting tonight 1/11/12

Meeting opened by Mr Gordon Watson - expressed disappointment at no-show from all four Waterford TD's. He outlined SE region almost completely self sufficient. Only cardio thoracic and brain surgery referred out of region. WRH very large hospital - bigger than St. Vincent's or Mater or Tallaght hospitals! Cork/Dublin already overcrowded.

All SE hospitals j...ust 40/50 mins apart. If SE region broken there will be less than 500k population - not enough critical mass to justify regional services like cancer centre etc. Job and service losses will ensue even if that's not the immediate intent.

Proposal is for a unified management board for all SE hospitals required to deliver even better services as the South East Hospitals network.

Reconfigurations cost money. WRH is a teaching hospital of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and hassle memorandum of understanding signed between WIT, RCSI & WRH. V important.

With Coronary treatment - time is crucial. Coronary angioplasty is the optimum treatment provided by cath labs. For best result it needs to occur within 90 mins of heart attack . 90% success rate. National plan says this should be in Waterford 24/7 but it currently operates only 9-5 Mon/Fri! Don't have heart attack outside those times!!! Serious doubts about extension to 24 hr service if region gone and/or competing with Dublin or Cork for resources.

WRH already produces a lot despite historical under resourcing! Prof John Higgins appointed as Chairman of newly appointed Hospitals Restructuring board in June. Board only met for first time in October!! Higgins did his own work in interim with no board imperative! It's his report that is causing all the concern as it has been leaked that it proposes the break up of the SE region.

WRH cancer centre has been commended by HIQA. Why abandon and ignore existing resources in time of economic difficulty?

Memorandum of understanding has been signed between WIT & RCSI. SE population will lose out on healthcare. Decision not yet made. Higgins report due on ministers desk shortly and then to cabinet perhaps before Christmas. Without SE region kilcreene will go. Dr Rob Landers Clinical Director of WRH stated that - if Prof Higgins report is enacted it will be a disaster for SE! Must do everything possible to prevent it.

Senators David Cullinane & Maurice Cummins in attendance. South Tipperary giving full support to WRH proposal. Can't say same true for Carlow/Kilkenny on basis of the say of just 1 or 2 or 3 senior consultants in one hospital in Kilkenny (St. Lukes). Without them - Carlow Kilkenny - the region is weakened and vulnerable to predation. Huge majority of consultants in SE in favour of WRH proposal. Tipp & Wexford on side. Issue in Kilkenny. Doctors in Kilkenny met WRH consultants last night. Support there. Simon Cross - vascular surgeon stated when 'vine withers' they'll be told to move to Cork. Far worse outcomes for SE population. That'll be first thing to go. With 3 vascular surgeons must have minimum 500k population.

Take home pay of hospital workers in city €140m into local economy. Why dismantle something that's functioning very well?

Rob landers - clinical director for cancer care in SE said definitively if this goes ahead and region broken up cancer care will be decimated and cancer care unit will be shut down.

Sen Maurice Cummins spoke - first heard rumours last thurs in Leinster Hs! Contacted Minister Reilly & met him on Wednesday (yesterday). Also met with Waterford & Wexford consultants and TD Paul kehoe in New Ross last Monday. At meeting with Minister yesterday - he (the Minister) gave no commitments. He expects to have draft proposal on 7th and final report on 15th November! Strong possibility decision made before Xmas!!!

Kilkenny has not signed up to SE doc - despite some consultants in KK supporting it. Susan o Reilly (?) head of cancer care in Ireland is very against break up of region. Link to RCSI cannot be over emphasised and with WIT.

HSE South management position is to maintain SE region - he believes. More need for reconfiguration in Dublin than in regions. Senator Cummins & Deputy Conway meeting Min Howlin in Wexford tomorrow. Wexford being promised things from Dublin (?). Kilkenny - one consultant is leading breakaway (probably unbeknownst to general population)! Need to tie down Wexford. Need to convince Kilkenny. Last parish in north of KK closer to Waterford than Dublin! Workers need to lobby politicians. KK GPs had been misled. (end of Senator Cummins contribution which I thought was excellent and left room to hope!?)

Gordon Watson - we need to get message out to south east through politicians and everyone else. Cllr Tom Cunningham - concerned everything based on cross of Dublin Cork Galway & Belfast....?!?!?!?!? (Total opposite of what he argued at amalgamation debate.)

Claire Mahony National President of Nursing & Midwifery - huge cuts coming. Applaud surgeons on stepping out on this issue - need to convince citizens.

Dr Tom Higgins if we want to keep together we need to woo colleagues in Kilkenny Carlow. Plus Wexford are iffy.

Henry Maloney - what we have we must hold. Does average person know what's happening? No. Need to get unions on board. Badger the politicians.

Prof McWade from RCSI - WRH is a dedicated teaching hospital.

Daragh Brennan a GP in Waterford - need to convince GPs in region - we need to talk to them. RCSI/WIT link very important - depth of links need to be known. WRH needs to articulate what's good about hospital also not just risks.

Donie Ormond- if we lose this battle WRH will revert back to a general hospital.

Rena Mulcahy - these meetings need to be replicated in Wexford and KK Carlow. Change name of Waterford reg hospital to SE reg hospital? Calling for action. Wider steering group. Lobby local & national & regional reps. Get word out on street. Let's work together as a region to drive SE agenda to save the level of services we have.

Fred Jackson - St Luke's appear to be fearful that their acute services could be gobbled up - Waterford couldn't accommodate their work. Anyway how can they guarantee they'd survive in Dublin link? Need to reassure St Lukes that WRH has no designs on downgrading KK or Wex hospitals.

Three critical messages - Gordon Watson: (1) call on ppl of SE and let them know what they'll lose. (2) Get wider representation to lobby/steer and (3) We are an academic institution.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

What's a City?

The amount of spinning and counter-spinning thats going on regarding the proposed Waterford City and County amalgamation due to be announed next week is phenomenal. In fact those 'in favour' of it think I'm doing a fair amount of spinning - or scaremongering as they call it - myself.

I have only one thing to ask. After the amalgamation - which NOBODY asked for, and which NOBODY had in their programme for Government - will Waterford be the same as Galway?

Just keep asking that question: is it the same as Galway?

If not, then its not equal - whatever they may tell you. A curse on all their houses if they dishonour the oldest city in Ireland.

By the way, the reason I think there's so much spinning is because this proposal is fluid. They're making it up as they go along.

And incidentally, Galway which was a town council up to the eighties found that that structure was hindering their ability to deliver and they applied for and were granted city status. They now want us to go back to some makey-uppy structure akin to the level of an urban town council!

A Municipal Borough or whatever makey-uppy name they have on it. Interesting that that is almost the exact title of Kilkennys Borough Council..... If it's that good; apply it unilaterally - across all our Irish cities. Don't single Waterford out.

Don't mind me. Don't believe my 'spin'. Make up your own mind. Ask the question: IS IT THE SAME AS GALWAY.

If it's not a City Council; it's not a city.

Friday, October 5, 2012

More on Waterford City/County Proposed amalgamation

To those who have read my previous pieces on this topic - apologies you will understand the issues and how I feel about them already. This is a status update I posted to Facebook this evening and I have been asked to publish it here for those who don't use Facebook.


Since the Munster Express headline yesterday my phone hasn't stopped hopping! Suffice to say that I don't think the merger issue is under the radar anymore. I try not to do politics here but there's been such an outcry I wanted to thoughts. For those who want to read more there are 4 articles on my blog going back as far as August 2011. The address is

So. As succinctly as I can. Here's what I see as the main threats of amalgamation:

1. The loss of our history as Ireland's oldest city. We have had a dedicated City Council since the late 1100's. A dedicated stand alone city council focussed purely on the city and it's future. Founded in 914 - are we to lose our city status on the eve of our 1,100dth anniversary. But you either get the historic significance of this, or you don't. I do.

2. Regardless of whatever spin is put on it, without a dedicated stand alone city council we will not be the same as Galway, Cork or Dublin. Is there some policy at play that sees those three locations being the focus of future investment? Current IDA activity would appear to suggest it.

3. Without a dedicated city council would the entire southeast lose investment and focus? What would become of our gateway status? It is a struggle as things are. I cannot see how being relegated to some second tier type administration would be better for our city.

4. We would be taking on a County with a €7.9 million deficit meaning any future investment in the city from a future joint council would be severely curtailed.

5. I cannot see where any significant savings would come as there is a national project in shared services being undergone as we speak anyway. This means that things that can be done jointly, or regionally or nationally are already being put in place.

6. I do not understand why a very small number of authorities are being singled out. If this was about delivering better local government surely it would be done on a national basis with well thought out, strategic things that we want to aim for. Why this pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey approach?

7. My objection is not because I am afraid to lose my seat. If this is about saving money then cut the number of Councillors in both authorities. The city council has already cut our annual budget by €8million per year. I believe cutting numbers (of councillors) and the shared services will deliver actual savings whereas what is being proposed may actually end up costing money as it means the introduction of a whole new organisation. It also means a focus on shaping the organisation for a number of years, taking the focus off driving the city forward.

8. I also believe that local government needs reform. But that won't happen as our centralised parish pump TDs and Ministers will not give up any real authority as it might mean they would have to focus on national issues solely and that would cost them votes in their opinions. Most have no vision of a future Ireland anyway IMHO.

9. In any amalgamated authority the city would form a minority part of any new council as there are more people in the county. This would lead to a prioritisation of resources FROM the city TO the county as decided by a majority. So your household charge could end up fixing pathways down on the east Cork border - while we still have no say just 200 yards across the river from the clock tower.

10. Finally I have NO faith in Minister Hogan, nor do I think anyone at Cabinet level cares enough to stop him - despite the fact that I hear on the grapevine that the Taoiseach has told him to back off Galway City, the Gateway to the West. There is silence when it comes to someone defending the Gateway to the Southeast.

And finally finally, I quite simply do not believe that Dungarvan will be the new Headquarters of the Council because it is, in my mind, just too preposterous.

However. Let me say this. If the change that the Minister delivers does, in my opinion, make things better for WATERFORD CITY, I will acknowledge it.

BUT. If Waterford City is downgraded, disadvantaged, compromised or dishonoured in any way I will NEVER accept it and will fight with every weapon in my arsenal to undo that wrong.

Sorry. I know that's long and a rant. But this is very important. To me. And it should be to anyone who cares about our history, our status, or our future.


Mary x

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Proposing speech for Motion That Waterford City Council demands that Minister Phil Hogan desist from his proposal to abolish Waterford City Council as an independent entity.

The Minister for the Environment & Local Government Phil Hogan is currently considering the abolition of Waterford City Council as a stand alone entity. I oppose this move as it would strip the city of a dedicated administration. Anyone who has visited either the newly opened medieval Museum or the Bishop’s Palace can see that for 800 years the city council has worked to protect the rights and privileges of this ancient city and the citizens that live here and make it the place that it is today. Todays Council is the inheritor of that work and we continue to work to lead and develop our city. I for one am proud of our achievements so far.

We would not be here without the determination and energy of the great Viking merchant traders who founded this Waterford almost 1100 years ago . Are we on the eve of the 1100th anniversary of the founding of this city going to allow it to be relegated to a second class city when for centuries Waterford was Ireland’s second city and greatest port?

The Great Charter Roll in the Medieval Museum and the story it tells leave us in no doubt that protecting the rights of this city has been a continuous struggle and that for over five hundred years this city council went to great lengths to defend its rights and its trade and commerce from outside interference.

Is this council going to go down in history as the Council that after 800 years of governing and protecting Waterford allowed the destruction of one of the most ancient and noble centres of local government in Europe? We are a city that is older than Oslo, Stockholm, Helsinki, Moscow, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, or Brussels! We need to stand together and stand up for Waterford city and perhaps we will be treated with the dignity and respect that we and the people of this ancient metropolis deserve. We are the elected representatives of the people of Waterford if we don’t defend the city, who will?

Are the people of this ancient City to be given a chance to vote on this proposal? Where is the democracy in this decision? I demand that at the very least the Minister conduct a plebiscite on this most important issue and I call on the leaders of Waterford City to follow the example of over 800 past Mayors and Councils to defend our City. Perhaps the European Union, with its principle of subsidiarity might even insist that we look again at any dilution of democracy in Ireland – already the most centralised country in the western world, if the Government refuses to listen.

We admire the traditions of our European neighbours yet Minister Hogan seems to be singlehandedly trying to destroy over 1,000 years of tradition in Irelands oldest City. Who will speak against him? Who will stand up for Waterford? Who will defend our City and ensure that it can grow and thrive into the future?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Why Are We So Full of Road Rage?

Is there something in the water? Or the air? Has the rain and cloud caused us psychological resentment that we need to vent on others? What is it about being behind the wheel of a car that makes some motorists (I include myself in this generalisation) behave in a much more aggressive manner than they would do in face to face meetings with other people???

In recent weeks I have really been watching people in cars. We think we own the world! We drive too close to cyclists; we don't give pedestrians priority - even when they're out in pouring rain; we bully drivers who make the slightest mistake; we are aggressive!

Personally I have started to try and modify my driver behaviour, to be more conciliatory. More human. I have tried to stop yelling at motorists who don't indicate on roundabouts....perhaps they're lost. I have tried to be more aware of other types of road-users, they're entitled to use the space too. I have tried to become more allow pedestrians to cross, to not take a motoring fauxpas as a personal slight. Not to assume other drivers are pulling out in front of me deliberately, or going too slow just to annoy me or breaking red lights just because they feel superior. In a word to be more patient.

It isn't easy. There are a lot of bad drivers out there. A lot of inconsiderate drivers. A lot of stupid drivers. A lot of downright dangerous and aggressive drivers. But everyone who makes a mistake doesn't fall in to that category.

Perhaps they are a person who has just had bad news? Perhaps they were up all night with a sick child? Maybe they don't know where their next mortgage payment is coming from? I try to reach out for the people behind the wheel rather than just the anonymous driver.

I've made mistakes myself, distracted maybe by whinging children or worried about some problem or other. Sometimes I've been plain wrong - although I am a very aware driver and try to take utmost care. But I'm human. Who isn't? I don't deserve the kind of vitriol that as drivers, we have become accustomed to doling out to other drivers who we think have slighted us. We need to pull back and become a bit more understanding and less precious. After all none of us is perfect. And other drivers (mostly) aren't just out to abuse the rules and or us!

A bit like in real life, we can't make judgements on people until we've walked in their shoes. (Or driven lol.) We need to pull back from a coarsening in our society indicated by our perceived absolute superiority complexes when we're behind the wheel.

Chill out people. We behave when in cars in a way that we would never behave when we meet people face to face. We're polite and accommodating. A little more of that from us drivers wouldn't go astray!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Second Submission Document in relation to Amalgamation Consultation Committee

Second Submission Document on behalf of the
Members of Waterford City Council.
For the attention of Waterford City Council & Waterford County Council
Amalgamation Consultation Committee.

We would like to thank the Chairman and members of the Committee for affording us the opportunity to address them a second time and indeed for allowing us to make a further written submission. Essentially we have no desire to go over the ground covered in our first combined submission. However as more information has come to light in the interim which deals specifically with costs & savings we would ask the committee to give serious consideration to the points below:

The following can be said with certainty

· At face value there would appear to be €1.8 Million per annum possible additional saving for the amalgamation option but this will be neutered by the shared services initiatives at National level, by political and staff vested interests and by the sheer length of time taken to achieve the change with the instruments available. The truth is, nothing is ever achieved in a ten year timeframe, particularly in the political and public domain, as the world will simply have moved on and the environment driving the proposal will have changed so much that the project will never be completed.

· It is simply implausible for the Committee to say with any certainty that there will be additional savings of more than €1 Million per annum for the amalgamation option over the shared services option and that these savings will be achieved without significant cost and in anything less than a six or seven year period.

· The Committee has no certain knowledge that there will be betterment of service consequent on either option and there is almost certainly likely to be a worsening in service and capacity in the combined organisation.

· It is certain that there will be reduced democratic representation and consequent reduction of real subsidiarity.

· There will certainly be resource drift from the gateway consequent on the demographic and electoral profile.

· There are certainly reputational and status implications for the City.

· There are potential gains from a merger that are unmeasurable but there are also potential risks that are unmeasurable but far greater. These are primarily consequent on the mission difference - particularly in the social area. This risk can be quantified by comparison to Limerick where the regeneration, social, policing and future health bill is in the order of €1.5 – 2 Billion.

· Is the possibility of taking on a €1-2 Billion future cost anyway viable for a saving of €1 Million per annum.

What logic is there to taking this risk when a viable alternative exists?

What is the viable alternative?

Undertake the Shared Services piece of work in the first six or seven years. This will yield the majority of savings in this period anyway - at a lesser cost. Review the operation after six years with a view to possible implementation in 2018 – if it is the right thing to do at this stage.

If the cost of the democratic representation consequent on two Councils in the interim is considered too great – reduce the numbers across both Councils for the 2013 to 2018 period.

What are the advantages of this alternative?

It yields certainty and manages risk better.

It achieves the majority of the savings that are immediately available anyway.

It allows the mix at national level to settle down and national efficiency initiatives and other proposals such as continuation or otherwise of the Croke Park Agreement to be resolved.

It makes the amalgamation far more deliverable post 2018.

(photo shows restored section of Waterford City Great Charter)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Mullane. Corbett. Time To Pay The Players?

Okay, so it's not my area of expertise - but I know a tremendous sportsman when I see one. And John Mullane is just such a sportsman. In the last 24 hours John, along with Tipperarys' infamous Lar Corbett have both announced retirements (of varying degrees - we hope John will be back in time) from Inter-County hurling causing shock and dismay across their respective Counties.

Listening - as I do - to a lot of commentary, it is obvious that the level of commitment required from amateur players in these days is, to be honest, excessive. They seem to train almost as much as professionals; their fitness and conditioning regimes are similar to professionals and their commitment and passion are in most cases from what I can see, superior to professionals. And that's all before they do their so-called 'real' days work!

What I can't understand (especially in these days of so much unemployment) is why the GAA refuse to even consider paying players or allowing them some kind of representational payment which might go some way towards allowing them to ease up on the requirement for a day job.

Why can't young boys grow up and dream of being a professional hurler - the same way they can aspire to be a professional rugby or football player? Surely with a little imagination it could be organised that Inter-County teams would have at least semi-professional players? That is in fact what they are - in every aspect, except pay.

We are expecting too much from our hurlers to expect them to give us the level of commitment now required at that level - and to hold down a full time job. Mullane and Corbett prove the case. We need guys like them on the field, playing for their Counties and for our entertainment. Not pulled in so many directions that they quite simply have to drop out - even if it's just for season!

I have to say, it's a no-brainer to me - and it creates jobs into the bargain. I'd call that a WIN:WIN.

But sure what do I know? (I hear you jeer....) I know we've lost two great servants to the sport - and I think that could be avoided. End of. (Other than that, I know nothing - I admit it!)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Dangerous Enough To Cause Death: Have I Got Your Attention Now?

I normally try to steer away from medical issues - local Councillors after all were taken out of the governance of hospitals and I feel I ought to concentrate my efforts on areas over which I have (or try to have) some role or influence. But I'm about to break that rule. Why? Because people seem to be dangerously unaware of what is going on out in Waterford Regional Hospital (WRH). And what is happening out in WRH is, quite frankly, dangerous.

Dangerous is a much abused word these days. But for the purposes of this article I mean 'dangerous' in a pretty conventional sense: dangerous to health and indeed life. The health and lives of our loved ones and ourselves. Dangerous enough to cause death. Have I got your attention now?

Like other politicians I have gained access to some data about WRH which I have read with increasing concern. When you read quotes from senior, respected medical personnel which state that 'Patients in the Southeast have a real and appreciable risk of being blinded...' - it pretty much makes you sit up and take notice! People will go blind in the Southeast? And then I read about the withdrawal of vital drug therapy for serious asthma patients and then onto the really startling quote that 'mortality and morbidity in our catchment population will increase....' Now they have got my attention. And despite the fact that I have no formal role in the health system I find I have to raise my voice.

People will be blinded and die in the Southeast as a result of the cuts now being forced on WRH. That's the stark, simple message. (And yes folks, it's 2012 - in the first world in case you are asking yourself the same question I asked myself!)

Here are some interesting figures.

Waterford Regional Hospital has a budget of €145 million.
Cork University Hospital has a budget of €277 million.
St. Vincent's University Hospital has a budget of €215 million.
Midwestern Regional Hospital has a budget of €145m and
University College Hospital Galway has a budget of €259m.

No big issues there? No? Well perhaps if you look at the next set of figures you might think a little differently:

Between Inpatient Discharges, Outpatient attendances and Emergency Department Presentations the hospitals treated the following numbers of patients in 2009:

Waterford Regional Hospital treated 212,521 people. (Budget €145m)
Cork University Hospital treated 220,346 people. (Budget 277m)
St. Vincent's University Hospital treated 184,520 people. (Budget 215m)
Midwestern Regional Hospital treated 210,946 people. (Budget €145m) and
University College Hospital Galway treated 291,089 people. (Budget €259m)

Pretty startling stuff. And there's more:

Waterford has 1,761 WTE (Whole Time Equivalent) Staff, while CUH has 3,329, St. Vincent's has 2,462, the Midwestern has 1,906 and Galway has 3,188!!!

The discrepancies are stark. And there's even more with
+ huge differences in Intensive Care/High Dependency Beds numbers;
+ ridiculous comparisons in Cardiology provision versus procedures;
+ numbers of Cardiologists - two in WRH performing 2,452 procedures versus 6 in St. Vincent's performing 1,740 procedures (I mean, hello???);
+ no 24/7 Interventional Cardiology (don't have a heart attack or stroke out of hours if you don't mind), and many other unfavourable comparisons.

I don't want to go into figures ad infinitum as it becomes confusing. But suffice to say that WRH is funded very poorly in comparison with most other hospitals - on almost any measure you care to take.

This situation has now become critical. I would like to pose a number of questions which I would like to see the HSE (and the Minister for Health) answer.

These include:

1. Why is WRH so chronically underfunded - and how can this be justified?
2. Why can the obvious efficiencies which have been effected at WRH not be rolled out across other hospitals?
3. Why are WRH being punished for performing so spectacularly well?
4. Can continued patient care across all specialities to International Best practice standards be guaranteed?
5. What specialities have been or will be reduced and/or eliminated as a result of further budget cuts?
6. What happens patients who have a heart attack or stroke out of hours?
7. What happens to patients who need Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators?
8. What drug treatments are to be or already have been discontinued or withdrawn?

And there are millions more questions culminating I guess in the bigger questions of how many people will suffer more, will wait longer for treatment? But I digress. We are suffering from nothing short of medical apartheid in this Region!

While the budget cuts are not the fault of the HSE, their implementation and management is. And asking WRH to implement more cuts this year is equivalent to asking an anorexic to go on a diet!

And here's a few more questions that lead directly to the door of the HSE South management in Cork....

Why has the Southeast Region been split into two ISA's (Integrated Service Areas) of WATERFORD/WEXFORD and KILKENNY/TIPPERARY, thereby duplicating governance and clinical structures aswell as doubling administration? Do they realise that a billion euro motorway has been constructed which now means that Kilkenny is 30 minutes from Waterford? Thirty minutes!

What politics is afoot amongst the medical community that means that resources and medical provision is downgraded across the entire region at the expense of having multi-hospital provision. So, for example, instead of having one unit in the Regional Hospital, accessible from across the region, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for victims of heart attacks - we have 9 to 5, Monday to Friday provision in several locations? Surely this is an example of a lack of clinical leadership at best - and downright idiocy at worst? It means that the entire region suffers! What's the old question 'cui bono'? Who benefits? I'd sure like to know - because it certainly isn't the patients in Wexford or Kilkenny or Tipperary or Waterford.

With the upcoming appointment of a new Clinical Director, will the new person be appointed for the Region or will the artificial split be maintained?

Why has no-one in the HSE South the 'kahunas' to Manage the Southeast as a coherent region with proper provision in the Regional Hospital to service the medical needs of the region 24/7? And I'm not even getting in to the whole Capital investment debacle.

So, if I could just have those questions answered, that'd be great.

Oh and the big question too of course: HOW MANY PEOPLE WILL DIE?

Having had a little experience of the HSE during my year as Mayor I don't have high hopes that these questions will be answered, or God forbid, addressed. But somebody, somewhere higher up the food chain might, just might, start asking them too.

Isn't this a great little country all the same, where we have pledged to pay €3 billion a year, every year for God knows how long, to save...wait for not peoples lives - to save the banks?????

I'm sorry but there is something almost biblically wrong with that. Something rotten at the core of a system that prioritises banks and money over people and life itself.

And I'm saying now: not in my name. That is all.