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The Messing Goes On and On and ..

The state of our health services continues to cause major problems for patients and, without a doubt, the needless deaths of hundreds each year. When there were no needless deaths reported in Monaghan General Hospital we were told by the ‘experts’ that it was ‘unsafe’ and so services had to be removed to make it safer for patients as we would be given a better service elsewhere. Now there are hundreds dying and at risk but all the Government can do is pitch money into the black hole and promise us that ‘a review’ will take place to establish what can be done.

When Michael Martin was Minister for Health we, the Monaghan Alliance, had a couple of meetings with him and he led us up the garden path, feeding us tranquilisers to keep us quiet while he proceeded to get the Health Board to dismantle Monaghan. When Mary Harney took over she refused to meet the Monaghan Alliance and pushed the Privatisation of health and wanted private hospitals everywhere. That would be fine but then how many of our population could afford to pay the prices of either treatment or health insurance? James Reilly, as is well documented, came to Monaghan prior to the general election and told us to ‘fight, fight, fight for our hospital and Fine Gael would fight with us’. We met on a number of occasions and he agreed with our policy for health provision and encouraged us. They then got into power and he, himself, was instrumental in pushing the further downsizing of Monaghan. Once in power he switched policy and refused to meet us or discuss the issue.

All the while I was involved with a National organisation we had set up known as Health Services Action Group (HSAG). We had an open meeting and I travelled to many areas where the hospital was threatened like Monaghan and spoke at public meetings telling them what it would be like if the policy of Centralisation was followed through. We had representatives of 16 hospital action groups and had a number of meetings with TD’s and senators in Leinster House and centres in Dublin and other towns. The party in power, Fianna Fail, then went into action with their TD’s promising their people that their hospital was safe and not to listen to us rabble-rousers. In some cases millions of euro were promised to develop the hospital to persuade them that they were safe. Even Monaghan got new kitchens, new wards, new beds, new theatre, new Accident and Emergency, etc but it was all an effort to shut us up and discredit us in the eyes of the public. Of those 16 hospitals 12 have been reduced to Nursing Home status with an office time Minor Injuries Unit and the other four are sinking fast.

When Varadkar took over there was hope that he would make a difference and reform the entire Health System but it soon became clear that he had no intention of taking on the vested interests and told us that he was working on a plan but that it would take three years for it to become active. We knew immediately he said those words that there was going to be no change. Simon Harris, a young, ambitious and capable fresh face to Government was another possible saviour but we are coming to the point where his own ambition seems to be stronger than his desire to take on the people who are stalling the health reform measures. He lost our confidence when he said he was going to draw up a 10 year plan. Now that means that he is not treating this as desperate and needing urgent and immediate action to halt the needless deaths. He, like all the rest, can offer sympathy and have real feelings for those families who suffer as a result of health system failures but that is not enough, he needs to take action.

If you were to read some of the things we said, reported, stated on national radio and television, had printed in newspapers and websites you would see that in 2003 we predicted what is happening today and put forward ways and methods of running our health services to avoid the mess we now find ourselves in but they would not listen nor will they listen now. However had they done what we suggested then it would have been much easier to implement and get the changes needed. Now they have a mountain to climb and have lost the confidence of the health services front–line staff, whose support is needed. We continue to get more and more managers, more and more advisors, more and more designers, more and more planners, more and more reviewers, and fewer nurses, fewer doctors, fewer medical consultants, and fewer beds yet we are spending more and more and getting nowhere. We don’t need big business men to run our health services but we do need people with human spirit and a real empathy for the suffering of patients and their families. They will make decisions to ease the pain, suffering and distress when a person gets sick. Harris needs to talk to different people.