Analysis

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Mary Harney would do well to read this

Published 08/07/2006 | 00:11

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By Dale Tussing and Maev-Ann Wren New Island ?29.95

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How Ireland Cares The Case for Health Reform

By Dale Tussing and Maev-Ann Wren New Island ?29.95

Eilish O'Regan Is there a health service in the world more analysed than our own - and can we possibly tolerate another tome? Unfortunately, because of the plethora of Department of Health commissioned reports and often circular debate, a jadedness has crept in.

But when it is boiled down to the plight of a mother needing radiotherapy for cancer or someone in desperate pain waiting years to see a consultant we are back to being humbled by our complacency.

Journalist and economist Maev Ann Wren is one of the few people who has waded in to the quagmire of our health service with a obvious sense of mission to try to make sense of it all. She is joined by Dale Tussing, Prof of Economics at Syracuse University in New York, who has written extensively on Irish healthcare for 25 years. It was originally commissioned by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions in anticipation of the recently concluded national pay talks.

It's quite clear that both authors are soulmates in their dislike for privatisation and are deeply opposed to Health Minister Mary Harney's plan to allow private hospitals to be built on the site of public hospitals.

The minister says this would 'decant' around 1,000 private patients from beds in public hospitals and that would free up much-needed accommodation for those who do not have insurance. Ms Wren and Prof Tussing are adamant there is a "priority to stop the private hospital plan". They even see a halt to the plan, described as a 'crossroads' issue, a more urgent priority than even extending medical cards and providing more nursing home beds.

Since the book has been written the tenders have been invited for the building of these hospitals which many believe will only re-emphasise the two-tier health system already in place.

The authors want the stock of beds in public hospitals to be increased but say it should be paced and take place first in those hospitals which are using the beds best.

It does not take long before the book veer towards Ms Wren's long-held personal conviction that the Government should introduce a universal health insurance system for all. This would end the division between insured and uninsured, with the State continuing to subsidise the care of the less well-off.

The authors are not putting it forward as the only solution and concede that, in influencing policy, they must guard against dogmatism.

This is a well researched and very well-informed book.

There was recent consolation for the authors in the terms of the partnership deal relating to health agreed as part of the pay talks. A review of acute hospital bed needs up to 2020 has been agreed but there is no rowing back on the road to privatisation.

Eilish O'Regan is Health Correspondent of the

Irish Independent

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