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Impasse

It is heading for 60 days since the General Election and we still have no government. The parties are all trying to see how best they can achieve ‘POWER’ either in this Government term or the next one. What is happening round the country does not seem to be part of the discussions. Policies and programmes seem to have been left out and the plight of the people ignored. Perhaps we can do without the politicians altogether. We are paying millions of euro to them at the moment while they play out their games to get ‘power’.

Meanwhile the health services keep going deeper and deeper into crisis. Perhaps that is something they want too. This all forces people, even those who cannot afford it, to buy Health Insurance, and to use the Private Health Care. This takes the pressure off the Public system, which is now totally overrun with problems and unable to cope with demand. Along the border it appears that all the hospitals on this side may be for downgrading and patients will be taken to the hospitals in the North. Letterkenny, Sligo, Cavan, and Drogheda will all become as Monaghan – Day Hospitals it seems. North Donegal will be served by Altnagevlin, Derry; South Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, West Cavan and North Monaghan will be served by Enniskillen; East Cavan, South Monaghan, North Louth will be served by Daisy Hill, Newry, which will get a facelift.

Until that happens we continue to have the two tier system in the South. If you can afford it you will get appropriate and timely treatment but if you cannot afford it you will be left to languish and take your chances. The details regarding waiting lists prove this – almost 5,000 public patients are waiting over 13 weeks for a colonoscopy, whereas a Private Patient can get it done in two weeks. Colonoscopies are very necessary for anyone with suspected bowel/colon cancer, which is one of the biggest killers in Ireland. The earlier cancer is found the better the outcomes and even if no cancer is found there are indications which can suggest constant watch needed that cancer may strike in the future. This is only one test and one set of patients, whose lives are put at serious risk. There are many others where swift action is needed but cannot be provided. Delays cause problems to magnify and become more serious and more difficult to treat and certainly more expensive. There is also the situation where patients are left to suffer pain, in some cases extreme pain, while awaiting treatment but that counts for nothing too. Nor have I mentioned the ‘trolley crises, which we have had for decades yet they cannot find a solution. They have all tried the ‘moving the deckchairs’ ideas - close one service, postpone surgeries, send public patients to private hospitals, send patients to the UK etc. but these have not worked.

Health Insurance only helps you to skip queues as when you do access the public system it is every bit as good as the private, if there are enough resources to cope. However there are alternatives. For example – you can get your GP or Consultant (if you ever get to one) to send you to any EU country for treatment, even if it is available in Ireland, and the HSE will pay you the cost of that treatment in the public system here. If the treatment is not available here then they will pay for you in a private setting somewhere it is available. If you wait long enough the HSE might even check you in to a Private Hospital here and pay for all your treatment.

We must remember that Private Health provision and Health Insurance are both big businesses and our recent Governments have been very fond of doing everything to promote businesses. The main aim of these businesses is to ‘make money’ for their investors. The cost of Private treatment is very expensive and so the Health Insurers must charge increased premiums to cover those costs. As a result cheaper cover is available but you must make sure that the type of cover you have is suitable for you. Many people took up the offer to take out a basic health insurance to beat the 35 year deadline for loading but these offer little return and cover very little. There are hundreds of packages available and it is a difficult task in working out which one you should have but covering yourself for hospital treatment should be a must on each policy.

Apart from talking about it and shifting services about what should be done to improve our Public Health Services? We need proper management systems staffed by people, who know how and are allowed to manage a public service. People suggest getting big business men in to run the health services but they would run it as a business with the main aim of making profits and not to provide services that put patients first. We need to remove some of the vested interests and put the patient first. Big business should not be able to dictate. Consultants obviously want things their way but sometimes that is not what is best for patients. It is easy for people living near a major hospital in an urban setting to call for the closure of ‘small hospitals’ but would they have the same call if they were lying dying of a heart attack in a rural area, miles away from the nearest hospital and over an hour away from the arrival of an ambulance. How would they feel if they had to wait for almost an hour for an ambulance after an accident and then another hour and twenty minutes before they arrived at that distant hospital? Research tells us that people die needlessly when the hospital is too far away, even when they are attended at the scene by a paramedic. So let’s use the facilities in the small hospitals to ease the demand and overcrowding at other hospitals. Again about 90% of emergencies taken to the ‘big’ hospitals could and should be treated in the smaller units. When we were fighting for Monaghan we were accused of ‘parish pump politics’ which was untrue as we wanted the Government to develop our plan for Monaghan and apply it nationwide. Had they done so the problems of today would be fewer.

Resources, or rather lack of them, are the biggest problem. We need nurses and doctors. We need to organise pay scales and methods, whereby it attracts nurses and doctors to stay in Ireland. Ongoing training and advancement of careers with proper pay scales must be sorted before we will be able to employ sufficient frontline staffing. It is ludicrous to expect people to work in such stressful situations, where life is at stake. It is also very dangerous for patients to have to enter such environments as many top doctors have told us. When the authorities wanted to close Monaghan they tried to tell us that it was unsafe and consultants will tell us that unless there is a big through-put of patients doctors will lose their skills and it will be unsafe for patients and so they try to prove that the big hospital is safer. Surely there is a contradiction here – if you state that one hospital must close because it is unsafe then there are a lot more hospitals need to close. We constantly hear doctors warn that overcrowding, lack of proper staffing levels and poor infection controls is totally unsafe for patients and that there are about 300 needless deaths each year as a result and yet nothing is done to rectify the situation. The people of Ireland will not put pressure on the authorities until such time as it affects them or their families personally and even then they are hesitant about making a complaint. We know that from our time fighting for our hospital when so many ignored us and took the political line and accused us of political interference. An article written by a German visitor to Ireland in 2013 tells us why and if you want to read the article you can find it at: : irishtimes.com /news/world/europe/ conned-a-german-view-of-ireland-1.1454115   We are a crazy race no doubt.

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