Thursday 18 July 2019

Letters to the Editor: 'Policy to have reserve doctors on call needs to take flight'

Nurses and junior doctors share many of the same issues, particularly in relation to safe staffing. (stock photo)
Nurses and junior doctors share many of the same issues, particularly in relation to safe staffing. (stock photo)
Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

As a non-consultant hospital doctor working on an acute medicine service in one of Ireland’s largest hospitals, I salute the efforts of my nursing colleagues as they continue to expose the fundamental failings of our dysfunctional healthcare system.

Nurses and junior doctors share many of the same issues, particularly in relation to safe staffing. Let us suppose that I fall ill, or I am scheduled to work a night shift, or I am rostered to have a day off after an on-call shift, or I have to attend mandatory training, or I am incapacitated for any reason, and am unable to attend work as a result.

In each of the above cases, the HSE will not put another doctor in my place to ensure my patients are cared for; instead, my colleagues must shore up the gap created by my absence.

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This practice is known as “cross-covering”, whereby a doctor, who may have never met the patients I care for, is required to care for my patients in addition to their own. This practice is undeniably unsafe.

Allow me to draw parallels to the aviation industry. If a pilot who is scheduled to operate a flight is unable to attend work for whatever reason, the airline rarely cancels the flight. Yet neither does the airline allow the aeroplane to take off with only one pilot. In fact, there is another pilot at home on reserve who is called in: a simple, obvious, and yet highly effective solution.

Healthcare providers in the USA, Canada and Australia operate reserve staffing systems with great success. My colleagues who have left Ireland consistently list unsafe levels of staffing as a primary reason behind their decision to move abroad. Indeed, I can count on one hand the number of my fellow graduates who still practise in Ireland.

I hope I have offered the public an explanation for why this is the case.

Dr Páraic Behan

Greystones, Co Wicklow

Solution to backstop impasse could lie in Stormont’s hands

THE possibility to find a solution for the backstop agreement based on the input of the power-sharing executive in Stormont should be explored.

It will certainty require pressure from Dublin, London and Brussels to re-establish Stormont. However, given the huge implications of a no-deal Brexit, there should be sufficient political will to work with the Northern Irish parties.

A possible compromise might be to give the power-sharing executive a say on the backstop agreement.

Patrick Bamming

Portlandstreet North, Dublin 1


Billionaires and millionaires rebuild as society gets poorer


ACCORDING to ‘Forbes’ magazine, there are now 2,208 billionaires in the world, eight of whom are Irish; collectively, billionaires are worth more that $9trn (€7.87trn). Not surprised, you say. For me, this is mind-blowing.

In Ireland, we have 125,000 dollar millionaires according to ‘The Wealth Report 2017’. David McWilliams in his RTÉ documentary reported in 2015 that 73pc of the country’s wealth is owned by 20pc, while the poorest 2pc own 0.2pc.

In 2008/9, the crash saw a major collapse in employment and the Government bailed out the banks with taxpayers’ money. Nama was set up; a number of major developers were given generous subsidies to stay in position to run their business. A decade later we note a number of them have rebuilt their businesses and have become millionaires again.

Meanwhile, Dr Seán Healy of Social Justice Ireland tells us in his pre-budget plan that 750,000 people live below the poverty line.

That is a long way below a just wage or opportunity to participate in the education system. Research carried out by UCC tells us more than 330,000 people owe an average €566 to moneylenders. Many jobs created in the last seven years are in hospitality and caring and are relatively low wage; many are part-time.

Despite the incredible recovery for the wealthy, there has been little recovery for many hundreds of thousands of the population. We can see this clearly in the Pobal index map for disadvantage and affluence 2017. For example, in one area of Limerick city, 67pc of men are unemployed and 40pc of women, while other areas of Co Limerick are marked as very affluent.

This contrast is obvious right across Ireland. According to TASC, “recent decades have seen a widening gap between the wealthy and the rest of society. We believe that is wrong in itself, extremely damaging for society and the root cause yet again of economic devastation.”

The mind-set of politicians has to change to clearly recognise the impact of inequality and to develop policies and supports to help disadvantaged communities to reach their full potential. Ireland could implement the living wage report immediately.

Dermot Hayes

Ennis, Co Clare

Irish Independent

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