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What’s in a name?

Even the current Director General Mr Tony O’Brien is not a fan of the actual name ‘Health Service Executive’ and would have chosen something more reflective of what the HSE does, like the National Health Service in the UK, as opposed to the corporate style moniker ‘HSE’.

Grand plans to abolish the HSE and replace it with something else/better – and presumably a shiny new name – under the last Government didn’t come to pass, but the ongoing structural changes mean a new name is not out of the question.

Indeed, there are many name changes happening currently within public health services, so many that it is not surprising that no one knows quite what any hospital is called anymore.

‘Regional’ in any hospital title is now passé and university is the new must-have naming status symbol.

The setting up of the Graduate Medical School in University of Limerick in 2007 meant there was a legitimate reason to change the name of the Mid-Western Regional Hospital Limerick (a relatively new name itself) to University Hospital Limerick, and of course every other hospital in the region had to get in on the act too.

The same thing happened in Galway, and in Dublin there are not many hospitals left without the word university shoved into their often already long titles.

However, things have taken a turn for the farcical in 2016, with the addition of university into the name of every hospital in the Saolta University Health Care Group, in itself a mouthful. Other recent examples include University Hospital Kerry and University Hospital Waterford. There are no universities in either county but sure it doesn’t matter how far away their ‘academic partners’ are, does it?

Of course such name changes are defended with claims that the hospitals are all part of groups, all sharing corporate and clinical links and values. But have any of these hospitals seen any real changes, reflective of their shiny new titles? Extra beds? Extra staff? Extra facilities? And –most relevant to their new names – new teaching and research facilities? There seems to be little real change. Certainly judging from the appalling hospital waiting lists nationwide, having the word university in your title does nothing to help.

In addition, rebranding doesn’t come cheap. Galway Bay FM revealed that the cost of re-branding the West North West Hospitals Group to ‘Saolta University Health Care Group’ cost €24,477 alone.

As we recently reported, the new National Children’s Hospital is due to have its official name chosen shortly, through a consultation process with staff, patients, and other key stakeholders. Let’s hope they choose wisely, lest the new name be replaced within a decade with University Hospital Something.

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