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Mary Harney kicked us in the teeth and shamed herself by giving the people just 18 minutes of her time for TV debate

When I first got the call from RTE's Frontline asking if I would be interested in taking part in a programme highlighting the A&E crisis and obscene hospital waiting lists, my mind immediately began racing through the main health issues.

I thought of the children around the country waiting on beds in Crumlin to get a much-needed operation, and the threat of theatre and ward closures looming there.

I thought of our A&Es and the 300-plus patients nationwide who continuously line the corridors on chairs and trolleys in pain.

I thought about all the tears and sadness I listen to every week in my role as a patients' advocate for Patients Together. Families with a loved one begging to leave a hospital bed they no longer require, but unable to escape the system, and all while being labelled a bed blocker.

I thought of the many campaigns supported by thousands, organised by ordinary people doing extraordinary work. Campaigns including Save Monaghan Hospital, lead by Peadar McMahon and Illona Duffy GP, where I witnessed a county out in force to save their beloved hospital, their lifeline.

I remembered Ennis town and repeated scenes of anger and frustration and another battle to save a local hospital, this time lead by Peadar McNamara and the Save Ennis Campaign. What of Noelle Duddy, who tirelessly spearheads a campaign for Cancer Services in the north west, and Brigid O'Connor who devotedly does similar for the people of Kerry?

Also the Tallaght Hospital Action Group, with Richie O'Reilly unrelenting in his work to support the local services, and Dr Theresa Graham, who seems never to tire in her battle to eradicate MRSA and hospital-acquired infections. The list goes on and my mind races while my blood boils. A people in agony and all at the hands of its own Government. I wanted to take part in the programme to be the voice of the voiceless, those too weak or afraid to speak out, as I once was.


I think often of my friend Susie Long, a young mother whose needless death shook this nation as it became clear her death was avoidable had her diagnosis come sooner.

I knew thousands of us could speak in truth about a system failing its people while acknowledging the wonderful care the staff had given us.

I thought of the many brave GPs, consultants and nurses who ignored the wrath of their peers by speaking straight and honest at the failings we as a nation endlessly endure in our healthcare, and here was RTE presenting us with a chance to air this hurt, to show each county that their town is not a lone target but that the injury and abandonment is echoed throughout this land. This was a rare and historic moment.

On entering the Frontline studio, I felt warmed by the many friendly and familiar faces from different parts of the country. Maybe, just maybe, we could get somewhere tonight.

The panel consisted of Sara Burke, a health analyst and a supporter of the truth; Chris Luke, a consultant from Cork whom I have heard speak out many times in support of the patients, regardless it seems of his colleague's judgment or reproach; and, finally, the latest offering from the HSE, Brian Gilroy. I have heard him described as arrogant and dismissive, in particular his failure to understand that while he may be three years in the job, we, the patients, have listened to plans and promises for many years, the same ones he has been instructed to enlighten us about, his frustration is obvious at us eejits who won't shut up and accept his word as truth.

For me, it is all about ordinary people and the most vulnerable of society -- nothing more, nothing less.

So, in the wake of the show, if you ask me was it worthwhile? In honesty, I have come away more frustrated than ever.


I can't help but think there was a clever plan by the minister and her people -- let us audience at it until we are ripe and ready to attack, then on she comes, a sole agent, and we go in for the kill, making the minister somehow look vulnerable and weak, with Pat Kenny battling to control the room.

In reality, the minister gave the people just 18 minutes and for most of that she got to do her usual talk of percentages and the increased survival rates for cancer patients. Thanks minister, I am one such person, but I in no way accredit that to you. I believe Harney shamed herself by admitting she had heard our debate from another room in RTE, listened to us for one hour and 12 minutes and then still told us she was proud of the improvements.

It was a kick in the teeth.

It is hard to understand how the minister can be so convinced she is right when nurses, doctors and patients are all telling her different. We no longer have a face for our health services, we no longer have a person in control, we no longer have someone on whom to pin our hopes and dreams.

We have been failed as a nation by our Government. They have abandoned us and all while enjoying the fruits of our hard-earned pennies. They have lost touch with our reality.

Either that or they know how we suffer and just don't care.