Editor's Viewpoint: Shortage of nurses is Stormont's failure
The NHS is supposed to provide for the well-being of those who need medical and nursing care, but the institution itself remains in relatively poor health.
Certainly the latest news from Northern Ireland gives little cause for optimism that the most urgent challenges are being properly met.
Today we reveal that only two-thirds of the 600 nurses recruited from overseas two years ago are currently working in the wards of Northern Ireland hospitals.
Regrettably, the latest figures indicate that it will be another two years before the remaining posts are filled. This means that it takes virtually a year longer for some of these nurses to be in post than it does for a student to achieve a degree in nursing.
It is hard to credit that this process of addressing the shortfall in nurses here is taking so long, given that the problem stemmed from cost-cutting measures imposed around seven years ago.
The pressure on the NHS wards is clearly continuing, and this has not been eased by the severe winter we have experienced. The health service professionals rightly receive constant praise for the good job they are doing in difficult circumstances, but they need more than praise however welcome this is.
Basically, they need more financial resources to do their jobs properly, and they need adequate staffing levels to avoid their stress increasing further.
There is also a continued need to address wider concerns about the NHS here, and how to use the limited resources in the most effective way possible.
Some radical new proposals were outlined in the Bengoa Report of October 2016, but since then the NHS here has been hamstrung by political deadlock and financial constraints.
The implementation of the report has been far too long and drawn out, and the current impasse at Stormont provides no indication of when the Bengoa proposals might become a reality.
As in so many other aspects of life in Northern Ireland, the challenges facing the NHS, as well as in education, infrastructure and other matters, are not getting any less while Stormont remains empty.
In a normal society these would be tackled urgently but in the political abnormality of Northern Ireland our public representatives are talking a great deal but doing little or nothing to ease our problems. They really must do better.