The Mary Harney Debate

Today is the day that the Dáil debates a motion of ‘no confidence’ in our Minister for Health for her handling of the health service. They have it all wrong – it’s not about Mary Harney – what we need is a proper debate on the way forward for our health service.

Whatever way you look at it, the Irish health service is in melt-down. For far too long the “ah, sure it’ll do” mentality has been allowed to continue and now the cracks have really begun to show. Every week another story emerges about a failing in the system and it’s likely that what we’ve seen is only the tip of the iceberg. How many more lives are to be lost before the penny drops that our health service is letting us down? There is no doubt that heads should roll for mistakes made but this is not just about accountability – the whole system is in disarray and we need agreement on a plan to put it right.

We’ve all heard about the opposition faced by the Dept of Health and the HSE in their efforts to sort out the problems in the health service. Mary Harney was a brave (many might say foolish) woman to take on the job – she’s proved her worth in politics over the years and let’s face it, as long as Fianna Fáil remain in power we don’t have much choice. However if progress is to be made, we need to take the politics out of health. It’s patently clear that as long as there are vested interests in the running of the service, it doesn’t stand a chance. It appears that the majority of people in this country are happy to sit back and allow politics to determine the future of our health service. Almost everyone is in agreement that a 2-tier health system is not the way forward and yet we continue to allow our government to push forward a strategy of co-located hospitals with an emphasis on private healthcare insurance. Studies of successful healthcare practices in other countries have clearly demonstrated that a single-tier healthcare system based on a universal health insurance scheme is the way forward. This issue is crying out for debate and yet the opposition’s only priority appears to be one of accountability.

The health service holds all our lives in it’s hands. Irish patients deserve equity of care and a better healthcare service. The time has come for Irish people to wake-up to the reality of what’s happening before it’s too late. The late Susie Long, a cancer patient, did her utmost to bring about change by highlighting the inequalities in the service. Sadly, the system failed Susie but we owe it to her memory to unite to become a force for change and to continue her fight for proper healthcare reform. It’s become abundantly clear that we cannot rely on our government to do this for us.

3 Responses to The Mary Harney Debate

  1. nonny says:

    You are right Steph but to see her in the Dail tonight was sad I thought. She talks of the measures she put in place and having to wait a couple of years to see results. She probably will get the boot and should her promises ever materialise her successor will take all the glory but something has to be done pronto and it seems she’s the one going to take the fall regardless. It really is an iffy situation, there is so much against her and today the papers revealed she spends just under ¾ of a million on advisers, this is sure to put the final nail in the coffin. It is hard not to attribute the blame to her. I listened to Gerry Ryan talk this morning he compared her to a captain going down with a sinking ship, historically this was to put a stop to any questions being asked of the vessels owners or other parties involved, when the captain went he took the blame and no more questions where asked. Interesting theory I thought particularly when she is clearly not the only person who needs to take responsibility for the continuously unravelling fiasco in our health service.

  2. Knipex says:

    Well she survived and I for one am glad.

    She has done alot to shake up the health service and to me she is the first minister to openly admit to the problems in the health service rather than hide them. The current cancer problems while easy to attribute to her are actually the responsibility of clinical staff, her fore runners and the old health boards who pondered more to local politics rather than a quality health service resulting in a hodge podge of services that were all taking funds and expertise from a limited supply.

    No matter how much we would like it to be otherwise there is a finite amount of money for cancer services and a finite pool of skilled people. These people are very hard to get and putting htem in hospitals where they were not treating the necessary number of people to maintian their skills was crazy.

  3. Steph says:

    Thanks Nonny and Knipex for your comments.

    I agree – I’m pleased that Mary Harney survived the vote. She’s a very determined woman and I’d be confident that if anyone is going to sort out the mess in the health service, she’s the one. I would add though that little progress will be made unless she changes from her policy of confrontation to one of negotiation. She needs to learn that there has to be give and take if solutions are to be found.

    The arrival of Prof Tom Keane to sort out the cancer services in this country is well-timed. We can only hope that similar tactics will be employed to reform the rest of our ailing health service.

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