Wednesday 28 September 2016

Healthcare crisis: the buck stops with Kenny

Published 16/12/2015 | 02:30

'It is not quite good enough for Mr Kenny to opine objectively on 'shocking dysfunctionality', as if it had nothing to do with him'
'It is not quite good enough for Mr Kenny to opine objectively on 'shocking dysfunctionality', as if it had nothing to do with him'

Last month the country was appalled to learn of the plight of a 91-year-old man who was left on a hospital trolley for 29 hours in a hospital.

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It was reported that the man was suffering from advanced Parkinson's disease. Commenting on the case, Taoiseach Enda Kenny it was "a shocking example of a dysfunctionality in the system". Today the stage is set for a strike by nurses who are seeking to highlight the impossible demands made upon them because of overcrowding at Accident and Emergency departments. Stress levels due to staff shortages and unrelenting workloads have brought matters once more to the edge. It is not quite good enough for Mr Kenny to opine objectively on "shocking dysfunctionality", as if it had nothing to do with him.

After four years as the head of Government, and having presided over U-turns on the provision of universal health insurance, and the necessity of subsidising blowouts in the health budget every year, he must do more. While washing of hands is a prerequisite for doctors, politicians washing their hands of responsibility is inexcusable, given the scale of the crisis.

It should not come to a pass where the onus is on nurses to highlight serious shortcomings which undermine the health of patients and staff. True, our health service has been under-funded for years. The critical point is whether the health services have enough to deliver quality, timely care to those who need it; experience suggests that they clearly do not.

The Government says it is not to blame, having put resources and facilities in place. The management of the HSE is just as adamant that it too is following best practice. Both sides can't be right. Mr Kenny fought a campaign for election in 2007 pledging to "end the scandal of patients on trolleys". In 2011, he promised that "the two-tier system of unequal access to hospital care will end." The buck has to stop somewhere - threats, brinkmanship and 11th hour interventions are mere sticking plasters for a system that is terminally ill.

Justice system failing to tackle repeat offending

It's been said before that when the law doesn't work, any criminal worth the name will work the law.

Today we are told that burglars are the most likely criminals to reoffend on leaving jail.

It is unnerving to learn that 80pc of these crimes take place within a year of a prisoner being released. The evidence is overwhelming that, given the chance, burglars will return to a life of crime, with 70pc being found guilty of repeat offences. Whether one looks at this from the point of view of prevention, or rehabilitation, this is a story of failure.

Needless to say, the closure of garda stations and the reduction in the numbers of gardaí on the beat have played into the hands of the criminals. But with such high rates of recidivism, one also must ask is enough being done to take prisoners out of this destructive cycle?

Sally Hanlon, of Support After Crime, believes the numbers cry out for a complete overhaul of the legal system. She argues: "Judges should use a checklist to see if the offender was co-operative, whether the property involved was recovered, while assessing how the crime impacted on the victim."

But the CSO numbers also suggest that if 65pc of former prisoners committed a crime in the first six months after getting out of jail, there should be more support and follow-through on their release.

Irish Independent

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