A Force for Change

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If you’ve read this blog before you’ll know that I’m continually harping on about the crisis in the Irish health service. Put simply, the public health system in is melt-down. When the HSE was first set up, we were promised better services – we got patients on trolleys. We were promised better conditions for health staff – and we got a jobs freeze. We were promised value for money – we got mismanagement and dictat. Yesterday, I was given reason to believe that this health crisis will not end in catastrophe.

An estimated crowd of over 4,000 people turned out in Dublin to demand a better public health service. People travelled from all over the country to take part in the rally. It was the first time that patients, consultants, hospital staff, unions and patient pressure groups all came together to declare “Enough is Enough” and demand a decent public health service. The Irish Nurses Organisation (INO) and Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) gave their support. Eamonn Gilmore (leader of the Labour Party), James Reilly (Fine Gael health spokesman) and the Lord Mayor of Dublin all participated in the rally. The march was well-organised with the Gardaí providing an escort of outriders to facilitate movement of the large crowd through the city centre to Government buildings where the rally was addressed by speakers representing each of the groups.

ConorMacLiam, gave a very moving address to honour the wishes of his late wife, Susie Long. Susie’s untimely death last year was brought about by the direct failure of this government to provide an equitable health service for all. Conor claimed that as many as 5,000 people are dying each year as a result of cutbacks and delays in the health service. He also told us that the government has plans to privatise hospice care in this country. This government is determined to pursue against all advice, a policy of privatising the public health service and now we hear that it also plans to develop a 2-tier hospice service. How nauseating is that?

For me personally, there were many highlights to the day. I thoroughly enjoyed the camaraderie of the crowd as I walked alongside young and old, from all walks of life but all united in determination to fight for a better health service. They all had stories to tell of their travails with the health service. I was also encouraged to see two emminent hospital consultants join the rally and take to the stage to give their views on the health service. Prof. John Crown, a consultant oncologist, confirmed that we have been sold a ‘pup’ by this government in terms of healthcare and very soon when we enter a hospital it’ll be a case of “Turn Left” if you’ve health insurance and, “Turn Right” if you’ve not. Prof. Orla Hardiman, a consultant neurologist and spokeswoman for Doctors Alliance (a lobby group formed in 2007 that advocates for better public healthcare), warned that we should be careful to support and protect those elements of the public health service which work well in serving the sick. Otherwise, the government will use the constant whining from the public as further reason to privatise healthcare in this country. I thought this was an excellent point. There are lots of good aspects to our health service and we need to preserve and protect them from government interference.

Susie Long went public in the final year of her illness to highlight the inequities in the system. She turned her own personal tragedy into a force for positive change. She helped to motivate me and many others, to do more to highlight the failures within the health service. I was determined to be there yesterday to honour Susie’s memory and I can honestly say that for the first time in a long while, I felt the tide may be turning. Hopefully, this rally will prove to be the catalyst for change.

13 Responses to A Force for Change

  1. Grannymar says:

    I am delighted it went well on Saturday. I only hope the enthusism for change lives on in further protests.

  2. Steph says:

    You’re quire right there, GM.

    We were told on Saturday that this was only the first of a series of events being planned to highlight the inadequacies in the system. As they say, watch this space.

    btw I saw myself briefly on the news that night but no-one else did 😦

  3. Ian says:

    I have great admiration for John Crown, but I think the turning left and right has been with us for some time.

    I also think that the government could not be pushing its privatisation agenda without the collusion of many doctors, perhaps they need to come under more pressure!

  4. Steph says:

    I think you’re absolutely right, Ian

    The delay in the consultant’s contract is a classic example. It’s not just the HSE who are playing at delaying tactics.

    I too have great admiration for John Crown. I love the way he writes and he can sure pack a punch with his words. He’d make a great CEO of the HSE though I’m sure he’d have more sense than to take it on. And anyway, any gain for the HSE would mean a huge loss for the field of medical oncology.

    Dr. Orla Hardiman is one to watch. She has an excellent grasp of the problems at the coal face of the public health service and is not afraid to stick her neck out. She’s making waves in the media and talks with great clarity on the way forward.

  5. Laura says:

    John Crown is something else and I can tell you that man deserves the admiration and respect of the Irish people. He already has the admiration of anyone who has or had or is touched by Cancer. The problems with the Irish Health Service run very deep from people not being seen on time to take action on illnesses which can be cured. You won’t cure everyone but surely you should give everyone an equal chance. The problems also run to dirty hospitals, poor food, to much yellow tape for patients and staff. And I am not going to mince my words here – abuse by people who see A&E as their own personal drop in clinic. I have never called an ambulance in my life, which is not to say I would not but I would never call them if I did not need them nor would I abuse A&E. The government owes the people a good service and the people owe the brilliant staff a certain amount of respect.

  6. Steph says:

    Laura, I have to agree with you about JC (interesting initials!). He’s been pushing the boundaries of oncology care ever since he returned to Ireland and Irish patients have really benefited from his various research trials. He carries a phenomenal workload but somehow still finds enough time and energy to fight the system. One of the few joys of being a patient with a serious/long term illness is that doctors tend to have a high respect/regard for you because they go through all your ups and downs with you. I go out of my way to let my specialist know when things are going well and I find, he really appreciates hearing good news instead of only the bad stuff. It also forms a good landmark for when things go wrong again, as they invariably do!

    Laura, I love to get your comments on the health service. You can’t beat hearing it from someone who knows the ‘inside’ story! I couldn’t agree with you more about abuse of the health service by some patients, and especially A&E services. You might enjoy reading Mousethinks (on my blogroll) – perhaps you do already – but anyway, Mousie is the head poncho in a busy A&E Dept in the UK and she will keep you thoroughly entertained with stories from the frontline. Go visit and see for yourself – you won’t be disappointed.

  7. Baino says:

    Steph if it wasn’t for people like you ‘harping on about the crisis int he Irish Health System” rallies like this would never get off the ground. I hope something comes of it. You definitely need more than one city to really shake the tree but it’s a start. Maybe coordinated protests in a variety of Irish cities, similar to the rallies that happened here in relation to our involvement in the Iraq War . . .there were protests in every capital city and what happened . . we had a change of Government and now a slow but gradual change in our approach to becoming involved in such conflicts. At least now, there’s a plan for staged withdrawal.

  8. Steph says:

    You’re right, Baino

    This rally was only the first of a whole series of protests being planned. The biggest problem in Ireland is getting people to stand up and be counted. When I told the nurses in my Mum’s dementia unit today that I’d been on a protest march for a decent health service, they were genuinely very touched. However the reality is, they should have been out there themselves protesting for better working conditions rather than relying on their union to represent them. The only way things are going to change in Ireland is when enough people show that they care and embarrass the government into a change of tactics.

  9. That cartoon says a lot. It’s in jest that truth is often revealed.

  10. So glad it went so well on Saturday, Steph, may it all work towards a positive change. You know, I can’t help but wonder… what is the state of other health services around the world. I know your focus is Ireland because that’s where you are – but I’m left with the distinct sense – especially living in Africa – that there are probably thousands dying because of inequitable health care – particularly in the developing world. I know, as one example the huge effort (years of) the Treatment Action Campaign put in here to get the government to provide anti-retrovirals for the millions suffering from AIDS/HIV. We talk about basic human rights and then watch as they’re just not delivered.
    As always, a thought provoking post.

  11. Steph says:

    Cheers! Paddy

    I totally agree – humour is a powerful tool. It’s my secret weapon! 😀

    Thank you! AV

    I do my best, and your praise and encouragement all helps to spur me on!

  12. B. Bultman says:

    The Irish Health system is in desperate need of proper funding and management. People also need to be aware of their rights as patients. We can all make a little difference by going to the following website and signing the petition:

    http://www.activecitizenship.net/content/view/56/78/

    It’s at least a start!

  13. […] bring about change in the system which had failed her. Susie turned her own personal tragedy into a force for positive change. She succeeded in waking the Irish nation out of it’s stupor of indifference and toleration. […]

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