At the Front Line

April 22, 2009

A draft document from the Department of Health has been circulated around HSE managers warning of further job losses in the nursing sector. Staff nurse levels will be cut by 700 this year as part of a move to optimise resources. The Irish Nurses Organisation (INO) has claimed that these further cutbacks will have an unsafe impact on frontline services and that patient care will be compromised. The HSE  is defending the proposal and continues to insist that frontline services will be maintained. I wonder what the VAD nurses would have made of today’s working conditions at the front line?

voluntary-aid-detachment3The British Red Cross Society formed the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) in 1909 to provide auxiliary medical service in the event of war. While it was mostly men who fought on the front lines during the First World War, some women also worked close to European battlefields as nurses. These graduate nurses and members of the Voluntary Aid Detachment – a corps of semi-trained nurses – worked in war hospitals, drove ambulances, and served as cooks, clerks, and maids. Most women who volunteered with this unit were not professional nurses. They attended classes in first aid, home nursing, and hygiene with the St. John Ambulance Association for between three and six months and also volunteered in hospitals, making beds, taking temperatures, and performing other duties. Open-air drills also taught VADs to build and cook on camp fires, pitch hospital tents, and care for wounded soldiers.

The work was physically and emotionally taxing. Nurses worked long hours in crowded and chaotic hospitals treating severely wounded soldiers from the front lines. They slept on bunks, ate rations, and went without the usual comforts from home. Although the work was stressful and sometimes traumatic, it also produced a sense of satisfaction in many nurses by allowing them to make significant and public contributions to the war effort.

Image courtesy of the British Red Cross Museum and Archives.


Mutiny in the Ranks

March 20, 2009

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The Irish Nurses Organisation (INO) is escalating it’s campaign against the proposed spending cuts in the health service. It has launched a new website Stop Health Cutbacks to monitor the level of cutbacks proposed by the Health Service Executive (HSE). Hospital staff and members of the public are invited to post comments online on what their experience of cutbacks has been and to air their views on how the services could be improved. All material will be validated before publishing and patient confidentiality will be protected at all times. Liam Doran, General Secretary (INO), has stressed that the overriding aim of this initiative is to demonstrate in detail where the system is failing patients.

The non-consultant hospitals doctors (NCHD) are also up in arms with the latest decision by the HSE, to cut their overtime and allowances.

Six junior doctors have begun a High Court challenge, along with the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), against the HSE. The IMO and the doctors claim that the HSE’s proposals are a breach of contract. They further claim that the proposed changes are impractical and will damage the functioning of the various departments in the hospitals where they work.

Next month’s emergency budget will radically affect healthcare in this country and it will be patients who bare the brunt of the further cutbacks. It is essential that everyone plays their part to ensure the highest possible standards of patient care in the difficult times ahead. Make your views known before it is too late.


A Force for Change

March 30, 2008

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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.


Enough is Enough

March 27, 2008
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If you’re sick of our health service, or lack of one, here is your opportunity to campaign for better healthcare. A march and rally has been organised in Dublin to demonstrate public dissatisfaction with the health service. The time has come to show the Minister for Health that enough is enough!

An umbrella group of health unions and patient campaign groups are urging the public to come out in large numbers next Saturday 29th March, and support the march. The rally will assemble from 2.30pm at Parnell Square, Dublin where it will be addressed by speakers, before proceeding to Molesworth Street.

The following speakers will address the rally:

Prof. John Crown, Consultant Medical Oncologist

Conor MacLiam – husband of the late Susie Long

Representatives from the following groups will also contribute:

Doctors Alliance for Better Health Care

Irish Nurses Organisation (INO)

SIPTU

Health Services Action Group

Patients Together

MRSA and Families

Recent cutbacks in government spending have resulted in further suffering for Irish patients. Our government has failed miserably in it’s commitment to deliver an equitable health service based on need. The bureaucrats within the Dept of Health and the HSE should be shamed for the long litany of dysfunction within the health service. Patients have suffered for too long without the basic healthcare they deserve. It’s time for change.

Please support this march to show you care. I’ll be there – will you?


A Way Forward – The Nurses’ Work to Rule

May 11, 2007

Yesterday the Minister for Health, Mary Harney, spoke to 400 members of the Irish Nurses Organisation (INO) at their special delegate conference in Dublin. She told the nurses that the Health Service Executive (HSE) was looking for a ‘way forward’ in this dispute – not a ‘victory’.  I’ve got a suggestion for you Minister.

It seems to me that the nurses have already achieved their goals with their ‘work to rule’ – with HSE picking up the tab. The nurses have reduced their working hours (while on the picket line) and they’ve stopped doing all non-nursing duties such as administrative work so that they can concentrate on their patients.

We’ve been repeatedly told by HSE that it’s costing €2 million per week extra (paid out of our taxes) to manage the Health Service throughout this dispute. In fact, this morning on the radio (Morning Ireland RTE 1) I heard HSE CEO, Prof. Drumm state that it’s costing €3 million per week. Has anyone heard HSE state ‘why’ it’s costing €3 million per week?

Surely, the way forward in this dispute is there for all to see?