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Open up private hospitals to public, says Labour activist


Gerry Burke

Gerry Burke

Gerry Burke

A senior Labour Party activist who works as doctor has called for private hospital space to be available for public use.

Senior obstetrician Dr Gerry Burke, who was chair of the party branch in Limerick city until two years ago, has said that such a move must be pursued, in light of the use of public funds to bail out private institutions.

"You can't have a situation where half the public are queueing up to get public hospital bed and the rest can just walk into a private hospital. That is not the way to run a society," Dr Burke told the Herald.

The medic, who is part of Labour's Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan inner circle, proposed the solution to the hospital beds crisis.


He said that the situation at emergency departments in the country's main public hospitals was intolerable and suggested that the decision to bail out private institutions with public money was a game-changer.

"With that decision we have moved from the Anglo-Saxon model to the Nordic model," he said, referring to the social democracies in countries such as Sweden, Finland and Denmark.

"The situation at the EDs of the country's main public hospitals is intolerable.

"But there is no such problem in the country's private hospitals," he said in a letter.

"The obvious solution is for the State to requisition private hospitals for public use.

"At the same time, investment in step-down infrastructure needs to be accelerated," he said.

Dr Burke anticipated "much squealing" about such a move, but that the common good had to take priority over the private property rights of individual billionaire owners and investors.

"Since the private pension funds of ordinary citizens have been dipped into by the State to pay for socialised bank debt, the private property taboo has been well and truly broken.

"The Mater private and St Vincent's private are beautifully positioned on the sites of two major public hospitals that are experiencing overcrowding.

"They would be a very good place to start," he added.

Meanwhile, former Health Minister James Reilly refused to accept personal responsibility for the overcrowding crisis - an issue that has frequently hit hospitals around Christmas time.


Dr Reilly said he cannot say why the number of people lying on trolleys has hit record levels because "I'm am not the minister for health".

The current Children's Minister brushed aside accusations from the opposition that he must shoulder blame for the worsening crisis.

Asked about the current trolley figures, which he pledged in 2011 would never hit such a high mark again, Dr Reilly replied: "I'm not the minister for health so I can't address that question.

"Minister Varadkar has a very difficult job to do.

"This is always a difficult time of the year and I am fully supportive of his efforts to address the needs of people who find themselves in need of medical attention over the coming months."