Toothless, €10,000 talking shops are taking place in this HSE region every two months, while stressed and worried older people watch powerlessly all over County Clare as their home help hours are savagely cut.
In figures released to The Clare People under the Freedom of Information Act 1997 and 2003, expenses paid out to councillors in the HSE West region who attend forum meetings are as high as €8,600 per meeting.
One member of the forum admitted to The Clare People that the cost of one meeting would pay for the lifetime home help needs of one older person.
Under the FOI request, The Clare People has learned that the bi-monthly meetings of the HSE West Regional Health Forum cost €154,104.92 during the last three years in councillor expenses alone.
Of this, €12,179.29 was collected by the four Clare members on the 40-person forum covering the nine counties in the HSE West.
Clare councillors received up to €240 per meeting in expenses, with one councillor in Donegal claiming as much as €625.87 per meeting.
Members travel to meetings in Galway, Limerick and Manorhamilton, but have no say in health legislation, nor can they propose changes or make any representations.
They can merely question the health authority.
Former Clare members of the health forum resigned from the body put in place to replace the former health boards as they described it as no more than a “talking shop”.
Cllr Paul Murphy (FG) found it “very frustrating because we couldn’t get answers or information from the HSE. I saw no point in travelling that far and claiming those expenses when we couldn’t actually get anything done.”
Even current members of the forum admit it is far from value for money.
Cllr Brian Meaney (GP) argues that the HSE must be kept accountable through some public forum, but said there must be a more cost-effective and efficient way of making this happen. And while councillors continue to claim for their expenses, it also emerged that at least two meetings in the last three years were abandoned, as they did not have a quorum – in other words not enough councillors stayed until the end of the meetings to make them viable.
For more on the meetings and a list of who got what, see page 4 of this week’s Clare People or download the freedom of Information documents below.