Urgent health remedies are as far away as ever
The Department of Health somehow manages to arrive at more turning points than any other, while at the same time never moving beyond crisis. Today we learn how huge areas of Ireland are being left with just two around-the-clock ambulances. One paramedic expressed concern over the fact ambulances are often forced to travel more than 60km to an accident that can have life-threatening consequences. Paramedics have been assaulted on site because of delays.
Today we also report on record levels of overcrowding in our hospitals - for the first six months of the year 51,321 patients were on trolleys in emergency departments and ward areas. We seem to have arrived at "an acceptable level of dysfunction". Despite the suffering and inexcusable hardship visited on patients and staff, the patterns have become fatally familiar. The A&E departments are overcrowded, staff are overwhelmed. Ministers step forward making solemn empathic pronouncements, there may be a review, or even the threat of a strike; but by and large third-world conditions go on.
There has been short-term tinkering, but the kind of urgent structural change needed for real transformation is as far away as ever. All discussions seem to move around the fulcrum that the health service will have to get more money or problems will persist. Each interest group competes for its own slice; more doctors, more nurses. But if money alone was the answer the health service would not be the omni-shambles that it has become.