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Labour, why not scrap an MP?

Wednesday 30 October 2013

photo Barend van Lieshout

It's a superfluous MP who considers the people who run our care institutions as a bunch of incompetents, writes Barend van Lieshout.

Labour MP Otwin van Dijk is going to ask the junior health minister to impose strict norms on care institutions concerning their paperwork, managers, buildings and transport. Money spent on overheads, the MP says, is money not spent on direct care. No one is in favour of overheads in care but that doesn’t make the MP’s proposal any less preposterous.

North Korea

The Dutch healthcare system is already ridden with rules and regulations. Everything is described in minute detail: which type of care can be delivered to whom, how the process is administered and reported. Fortunately, we still believe that the people on the ground are better equipped to judge how an institution should spend its money than, say, an MP in The Hague.

No healthcare official deliberately creates overheads. Paperwork is a necessary evil, managers aren’t hired until the situation calls for it, buildings aren’t built to stand empty, and cars are used if the distance can’t be managed on a bike.

MP Van Dijk seems to think the healthcare sector is an overhead-producing machine that needs to be stopped by the government. You wonder why Van Dijk restricts himself to overheads in care. Wouldn’t every sector be better off under government control? Cuba, Laos, Vietnam, North Korea, the Netherlands?

Government overheads

Government departments are all overheads, especially the legislative part. Laws don’t wash behinds, laws can’t be lived in. We know that government departments will never be smaller than they are now. Even the central planning bureau CPB has stopped believing the reduction plans will ever happen.

Who controls the government departments? That would be the government. It manages law-making: someone has to do it and without it things would go to pot. And what does parliament do? It monitors the government. That makes it the supervisor of the management of the overheads of the Netherlands.

So if anyone should know about overhead costs it’s an MP. Isn’t it time for a little self-reflection? Couldn’t Labour do with one less MP?

You could laugh it off.  After all it’s only an idea floated by an MP, it won’t come to anything. But it’s not that simple. Van Dijk’s proposal shows what he really thinks of the care sector. What he sees is a bunch of incompetents who are in dire need of his help to straighten things out. Even worse, he states that his overheads norm should be the leading norm when it comes to buying-in care. Who cares about quality as long as the norm is complied with?

The cynical thing about all this is that rules are the biggest driver of overheads. And now Van Dijk wants another rule, one that will produce more paperwork, more reports and more managers. 

Barend van Lieshout is a care advisor at Rebel.


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