Monday 24 October 2016

We demand a health service fit for purpose

Published 24/06/2015 | 02:30

'Ever since Brian Cowen dubbed the Department of Health 'Angola', there has been a perception that it is impervious to real reform'
'Ever since Brian Cowen dubbed the Department of Health 'Angola', there has been a perception that it is impervious to real reform'

When it comes to a fundamental right, there can be no middle ground, and surely it is a fundamental right that sick people be cared for. That is why the State will spend at least €13.5bn this year on health.

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Yet only two weeks ago we learned how two patients - both of whom were more than a hundred years of age - were left on hospital trolleys for more than 24 hours.

There was the usual hue and cry that surrounds such revelations. Today we learn that as many as nine psychiatric patients were left unattended at an A&E unit waiting for a bed.

The hospital staff did all they could, but there were no beds. As a union representative explained, it was "a noisy, crowded and frightening environment".

Passing laws and holding prestigious conferences in picturesque locations to make solemn pronouncements is the easy part of being in power.

But the business of governing, of actively weighing in and confronting crises, managing them, and getting results on a daily basis, is difficult.

It was once said of the US medical establishment that: "America's health care system is neither healthy, caring, nor a system." Some might say that the same could be said here.

Despite the extraordinary work of doctors, nurses and staff, a bloated, inefficient and unwieldy health service is simply not delivering.

Money has been thrown at the problem but outcomes are way behind what is required. Ever since Brian Cowen dubbed the Department of Health "Angola", there has been a perception that it is impervious to real reform.

Frontline staff are left to deal with failures that go all the way to the top. That patients and staff have been put at risk is completely unacceptable.

"We need to speak out about this for change to happen," said a hospital worker.

The Taoiseach and his Government should know that free health care for the under-sixes is not a substitute for a remedy for the ills of our health service. A show of resolve backed by meaningful action is long overdue.

A little dose of reality about public pay rises

They say that privilege is driving a smooth road and not even knowing it. Our senior civil servants travel such a road - true, it may have been a bit bumpier over recent years but it was greatly smoothed by job security and generous pensions.

Many who lost their jobs in the crash would happily have traded places for such comforts. That is why the recommendation by the executive of the Association of Higher Civil and Public Servants, that its 2,850 members should reject the proposed new public service pay deal in a forthcoming ballot, comes as a jolt.

It has described the Lansdowne Road agreement as "deeply disappointing" and even gone so far as to warn of possible industrial action. Teachers unions ASTI and the TUI are also looking askance at the deal.

Many in the private sector have no prospect of a rise.

The Government deficit is onerous and our national debt remains a concern.

Given these facts there is nothing to be complacent about, and a little bit of realism and responsibility regarding the strength of the economy would not go amiss.

Irish Independent

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