An open letter to Santa Claus

With Christmas fast approaching, Health Manager, Laurence Nightingale pens an open letter to Santa Claus.

Dear Santa,

I hope this letter finds you well. If it does, then perhaps you have private health insurance.

It’s been almost a year since we were last in contact and a lot has changed. Health service managers have not been very good boys or girls, spending most of their time signing official hospital closure letters. As a result of their flagrant attitude towards living within their means, the health service has fallen foul of our international patrons.

SantaTime was that three wise men arriving at your stable door bearing gifts would be considered a welcome surprise. Now the smoky, balsamic aroma of Myrrh and the fresh, fruity, pine-lemon bouquet of Frankincense contrasts sharply with the waft of what the country is currently up to its neck in. A different Troika casts a spectre over Christmas and there is no gold to be found.

In cognisance of this, I thought it timely to set out the revised arrangements for Christmas 2012 within the health services to facilitate planning for the festive season.

On instruction from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, the annual carol singing event has been outsourced. An Australian folk band has been awarded the contract and we look forward to their take on ‘Fairytale of New York’ being piped in remotely to hospital radio by mid-December.

Regrettably the ban on travel will mean that your own capacity to visit our paediatric hospitals will have to be curtailed. Instead you should make arrangements to teleconference with the relevant children. The process for determining whether a child has been ‘naughty or nice’ has also changed and I have appended details of the HSE Performance Management System with this note for your attention.

I understand that a number of reindeer have retired since we last spoke. In line with the moratorium on recruitment and policy on acting-up, you should, in the first instance consider the requirement for replacing these vacancies in the context of an overall review of sled-pulling capacity within the system. In the event that you determine them critical to the overall delivery of your function, you should seek to redeploy a reindeer from another part of the system to fulfil this role.

Alternatively you should seek a skills-mix solution to the issue and consider the introduction of a reindeer assistant grade within your overall staff complement. In this regard, the re-assignment of cheaper, load-bearing animals such as pigs or sheep should be considered.

All elves will be required to work two additional hours per week at a flat rate and subsistence will be discontinued. owing to the wide availability of mince pies on-site.

Any older sleighs will not be replaced. Instead decommissioned trolleys previously accommodating patients inappropriately in Emergency Departments will be utilised.

Our annual spend on decorations has not been afforded any protection in these straitened times. Where baubles and tinsel would have festooned large Christmas trees at hospital entrances in the past, we will instead circulate a picture by email of the tree in Dr. Steevens. The picture should be printed off and displayed in prominent locations to convey a suitably restrained message of good will to hospital goers. Under no circumstances should the picture be printed off in colour.

The nativity play has been scaled back considerably as well. The HSE will not be in a position to provide a donkey to transport Mary to and from the stable and she will be required to bring her own straw for bedding. Due to a visiting ban, she will not be allowed to receive any well-wishers. Following her discharge, the full economic cost of her private stay will be charged to the relevant insurer.

Due to the curtailment of catering services, there will be no turkey or ham for patients this year. However a new procurement contract with an offal firm in the Far East will provide opportunities for patients to sample an international menu which might previously have been disregarded for consumption.

The traditional ’12 days of Christmas’ has been standardised under the terms of the Public Service Agreement. There will now be six.

As we face into another year of penury for the health service in Ireland, there is grave concern around whether Christmas will proceed at all in 2013. This will likely form the basis of negotiations around further savings between central government and the social partners.

In the meantime, I would like to wish you well in your efforts to bring some much needed cheer to our staff and patients and assure you of the full support of the Irish Health Service, within the confines of budget and ceiling.  We look forward to a day soon when the purifying, restorative and revitalizing scent of Myrrh can once again be appreciated here.

Yours sincerely,

Laurence Nightingale