What's all this fuss about the latest health cutbacks? Don't you know we have a perfect health service?
Don't believe me? Well, it pretty much says so in a new HSE draft charter of rights for patients.
This document was produced over the past week -- when we heard about cuts at Beaumont Hospital and a threat to slash A&E services.
But never mind all the bad news -- it's just concocted by begrudgers. Let's bask in the glory of the charter...
It promises equity of access, safety, proper communication with patients, adequate information about services, and other noble goals.
Those highlights include:
"Our services are organised to ensure equity of access to public healthcare."
And (please try to keep a straight face):
"You should not have to wait longer than 90 days for a GP referral for a hospital outpatient appointment."
And (no sniggering at the back now):
"If you arrive at an emergency department and a decision is made to admit you, you should not have to wait more than six hours before being admitted."
Exactly which country's health service are they talking about here?
Time for some facts:
Trolley waits in major hospitals are still too long; the three-month waiting target for an outpatient appointment is but a pipedream for 175,000 public patients on waiting lists.
Bed numbers are being cut further; free dental care is being taken away from medical card patients -- the list is, as they say, endless. And safety? Efforts are being made to improve things, but the public is not convinced -- 55pc of Irish people are afraid they will be harmed by hospital treatment.
Certainly, the health service is short of money.
But so far much of what we have seen has been a "slash and burn" approach -- reforms and cuts with little consideration of what effects this will have.
The HSE and Mary Harney are putting the cart before the horse. They are getting rid of hospital services long before we have anything like the community services needed to replace them.
The health authorities are putting bean-counting and neo-con policy-making before quality of care.
The plan to scale down A&Es was already on the agenda long before there were shortages of junior doctors. We can expect to see cuts in children's A&E services in Dublin.
Mary Harney and the HSE should be ensuring that patient needs are met now before producing a glossy document about a "virtual reality" health service.
Niall Hunter is editor of irishhealth.com