I’ve long been a fan of Prof John Crown, Consultant Medical Oncologist, for the manner in which he speaks out to expose the faults in the Irish health system. John Crown does not mince his words – he says it as it is and in doing so has managed to rattle cages to shame the Department of Health into doing something about the disastrous health service in this country. He writes a regular column in the Sunday Independent which exposes the chinks and cracks in the system, and helps to paint a clearer picture of the problems involved. Last Sunday’s article was no exception where he likened the bureaucrats in the HSE (Health Service Executive) to the dinosaurs taking over in Jurassic Park, and named it ‘Burassic Park’.
In a week when the HSE announced a freeze on recruitment leading to health service cutbacks, they simultaneously announced a scheme of performance bonuses for senior HSE administrators. As John Crown so rightly pointed out, this clearly shows where the priorities of the HSE lie. This latest action by the HSE is a complete insult to those who are expected to continue to work in an already under-resourced and over-burdened health system. I personally feel very uncomfortable about the way in which our Minister for Health, Mary Harney, has reacted to the events that have happened at Barringtons Hospital recently concerning cancer care there. She is insisting that the Dept of Health has no authority over private hospitals and thus she says, it has no authority to take action to intervene. This does not bode well for the future of our health service which will have many more private hospitals coming on stream as the Minister insists on pressing ahead with the co-location debacle. Who will take responsibility when things go wrong in these private hospitals?
John Crown also clarified the problems involved in the stand-off that continues between the Dept of Health and the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) over consultant contracts. To his credit, he actually criticised the consultants (his colleagues) for their increasingly unseemly row over private practice rights of their as yet, non-existent colleagues. He believes that the IHCA should concede the inevitable and accept that the new consultants will have to have new contracts which the Dept of Health will ultimately decide upon. He encouraged consultants instead to “channel their energies into the good fight, which is the fight for healthcare reform, universal health insurance and single-tier healthcare”. At last common sense has spoken!
Irish patients deserve equity of health care and a better healthcare service. We owe a great debt of gratitude to John Crown for the role that he plays as a doctor to advocate on behalf of all patients. He is a voice of reason in a world where common sense is sadly lacking. May he long continue to fight the good fight on our behalf.