Thursday 27 October 2016

Where is the response to our hospital crisis?

Published 07/01/2016 | 02:30

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Minister for Health Leo Varadkar. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Where we might expect outrage or anger, we have instead come to tolerate decades of overcrowding and understaffing at our hospitals. Delays that can run into days would not be accepted in any other European country, nor should they be.

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The scandal - for that is what it has become - of patients left on trolleys in emergency departments, and the scarcity of nurses and doctors that prevents the provision of beds, hardly merits a mention in Government.

There are no emergency cabinet meetings. Atrophy and resignation seem to pervade; there is no resolve to sort out the chaos in our hospitals. There is stagnation and dysfunction - and the elderly and infirm bear the brunt.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny once pledged that the "two-tier system of unequal access to hospital care will end".

It hasn't. On average about 7,000 people end up on hospital trolleys each month. How does one square this with the stories of recovery and the congratulatory tone associated with the €3bn surge in the State's coffers through consumer spending?

Health Minister Leo Varadkar prioritised dealing with overcrowded emergency departments. He said that there should be zero tolerance for anyone being on a trolley for more than 24 hours.

Nurses are now striking to highlight their intolerable working conditions. Doctors too are over-stretched.

There must be solutions beyond the A&E departments. Changed work practices and co-ordination of services, reviews of primary care, increased and better community and social care all could and should open more beds. Problems become endemic, and remain so, when the unacceptable becomes acceptable. Going into an election there are countless important issues - but health is the only one that is literally a matter of life and death.

Irish Independent

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