The Mary Harney Debate

November 27, 2007

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.

Planet Beverley

June 25, 2007

I don’t know what planet Bertie and Beverley are on but the rules there seem to be very different to the rules I have to follow. Beverley Flynn, T.D. in Mayo was declared bankrupt following the legal action she took against RTE, which failed. She subsequently was expelled from the Fianna Fail party after losing her libel action. Next we hear following the recent election that An Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern has her support as an independent deputy and that he would like to welcome her back into Fianna Fail “her natural home” once she settles her debts. And surprise, surprise, today Beverley announces during an extended interview on the News at One, that she has reached an agreement with RTE to settle for half of the costs involved and owes no apology to anyone. The arrogance of it is unbelievable! And when asked if she considers that she might serve in the Cabinet during the lifetime of this government, she replied “one step at a time – I’ve been through a tough time”. My heart bleeds for you Bev – yeh right! One thing has become abundantly clear to me however – I’ll have to get myself some Brasso to polish up my neck!

Don’t Hold Your Breath!

June 14, 2007

It’s exactly 3 weeks since polling day and almost six weeks since the 29th Dail was dissolved. Today Bertie Ahern goes back to the Aras to kick-start the new government. You can’t but have noticed the intensity of the negotiations that have been going on for the past few weeks as the various political parties have agonised over finding a solution in time for today’s deadline. No amount of time given was too much. Isn’t it a great pity that they couldn’t apply the same intensity to sorting out the mess that is our Health Service? For starters, we critically need a proper debate on the whole subject of co-located hospitals. The saying “nothing focuses the mind like a deadline” holds so true. What the HSE needs now is a new deadline for making progress – or maybe a kick up the Aras would work better!

(Co)-Location, (Co)-Location, (Co)-Location

May 14, 2007

I just don’t get it. As I understand this co-location policy, Fianna Fail wants to free-up more Public beds in Public hospitals for Public patients. They say that the quickest way to achieve this is by moving Private patients out of Public beds into co-located (cushy) Private hospitals on Public hospital sites. These Private hospitals are to be staffed by Consultants who agree to work in the Private system only. And in the long term, it’s hoped that Public hospital Consultants will agree to work only in the Public sector. In HSE speak, this policy will free-up approx 1,ooo Public beds for those patients without private health insurance. But let’s look at what else this policy will achieve.

Without doubt it’s going to cause an even wider divide between the Public and the Private systems. The Private health insurance market has gone mad and is set to get even worse with this government’s policies. Are the hospital Consultants happy with the HSE proposals? No. The HSE is interfering in doctor/patient relationships. Is it any wonder that the IHCA (Irish Hospital Consultants Association) is refusing to agree to new contracts. Private patients will always continue to need both elective and emergency care in Public hospitals as these are the centres of excellence for many complicated conditions. What is a Private consultant meant to do when his/her Private patient is re-admitted as an emergency to a Public hospital following surgery in the Private system. Are they expected to abandon their patients?
Could someone please explain to me why patients in Public hospitals are expected to put up with filthy, old-fashioned hospital conditions while Private patients are set to get all the nice new modern, clean facilities? And why is it that Public patients get lousy food when Private patients have á la carte menus? You’re either sick and in need of good hospital care or you’re not.

Surely it makes sense to concentrate resources on getting a decent Health Service that works for everyone. I say – one for all, and all for one! But it’s not about common sense is it?