Saturday 23 March 2019

Editorial: 'As crises worsen, all smug ministers seem to do is spin'

Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo: Damien Eagers
Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo: Damien Eagers
Editorial

Editorial

Governments with an unhealthy preoccupation with appearances develop a destructive habit of distorting realities.

It can start off innocently enough, deflecting the light slightly to present something less than desirable more positively. Unchecked, they will begin a dangerous descent, irresistibly drawn to replacing truths with their own interpretations of them.

The 'intel' seems at times based on observations from an imaginary parallel universe.

One assumes sufficient people are around with at least one foot on the ground to stop them losing a complete grip on things.

Whomever these persons may be, they appear to have taken a few days off of late.

How else are we to understand how Health Minister Simon Harris could claim to be "encouraged" by what he classified as a "significant reduction" in the number of patients on trolleys?

For on the very same day Mr Harris was giving his jaunty assessment, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation described 2018 as the worst year on record for hospital overcrowding. By its reckoning, 108,227 patients were deprived of a hospital bed last year - a record high. As INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha put it: "Despite the Government spin, 2018 was the worst year on record for overcrowding." She said more than 100,000 patients were forced to wait on trolleys and chairs, without a proper bed.

This is a situation which dramatically worsens outcomes for patients. For the elderly and ill to have to endure such indignity is simply scandalous in a department with a budget in excess of €20bn. Remember, this country spends €4,706 per head of population on healthcare. This is one-third more than the average across 35 member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

One would have to be either deluded or wilfully blind to regard such failure as anything other than a crisis. Our hospitals are beset by the same perennial problems of overcrowding due to too few beds and too few staff.

If Mr Harris finds this in any way heartening, we should be deeply concerned.

There were too many occasions last year when shallow confidence was employed to mask chronic problems. Instead of concern, we got smug complacency, especially in dealing with the housing and health emergencies. The new year has scarcely started and the same devices are being employed.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has led the charge when it comes to presenting the unpalatable and even the unpardonable as a plus.

Yesterday he sought to make a virtue out of introducing a carbon tax, promising money raised from the tax from households should be given back to households.

Dealing with challenges is what governments are elected to do. Not dodging or deflecting them.

Irish Independent

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