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Editorial - Health service facing meltdown

Over the decades, this country has faced, and overcome, many challenges with regard to our economic, social, cultural and overall societal wellbeing. However, it is equally true to say, that as a nation state, we are currently in a perilous position.

Notwithstanding the strength of argument for an alternative, our government remains absolutely convinced that we must save our banking and financial system above all else. It would also appear, regardless of whether the cost is €25 billion, €30 billion or more, that our government is committed to borrow, at exorbitant costs, whatever sums are necessary to bail out these banks while the needs of ordinary people and families receive scant acknowledgement let alone serious attention.

It is now a simple reality that our public health service is in a permanent state of crisis, is completely unable to proactively meet the needs of those waiting for, or receiving, care and is, effectively, facing meltdown.

I do not make this assessment for the purpose of castigating the HSE or the government, for its own sake. I sincerely make it based upon the experience of our members on the frontline and their valiant efforts to maintain safe care.

The simple truth is that A&E departments are more overcrowded than ever, while much needed public beds remain closed and other wards face overcrowding. In addition, we have the reality that our public health nursing service is completely under resourced and unable to meet its obligations with regard to early intervention. Added to all of these inadequacies we can look at the area of mental health, with the abject failure to implement the Vision for Change strategy and the mass privatisation of our care of the older person services, which takes us into the area of profit seeking with regard to healthcare. Finally, we have the attack upon agencies providing services for those with an intellectual disability and the threat to withdraw respite care and other essential services from families.

The INMO is prepared to highlight the absolute folly that is the current approach to balancing the books within the HSE. The government must be taken to task when one considers its policy, towards the financial services and contrasts it with its policy towards maintaining essential public health services. To speak about removing a further €700 million, from the health budget in 2011, when one sees the inadequacy of the service to meet demand this year is inexcusable and, quite frankly, immoral.

If we can borrow, at exorbitant rates, to bail out a bank that has not, is not and will never add to the good of society then we can borrow to maintain essential services to the sick and vulnerable in our society. To say that this will exacerbate our economic difficulties is wholly unacceptable and indefensible.

We recognise that every Euro spent on the health services must be spent in an appropriate manner, ensuring value for money. However it is not acceptable to overcrowd wards, leave ill people at home without care, fail our children with regard to them accessing early intervention services and reduce services to the mentally ill.

This country is at a crossroads with regard to choices and values. The INMO will not be silent in calling upon the government to look after the people of Ireland before it looks after the international money markets. We will never appease their appetite for profits on the backs of ordinary working people. This government must stand up to the markets and the faceless bureaucrats and, instead, stand beside those they were elected to serve.

Even at this late stage, even as we stand on the precipice of failing completely to look after Ireland as a community, we can and we must change direction. The INMO will continue to tell this government there is a better way which they must follow. In doing so we shall remind them good health has both a social and economic value.

Liam Doran
General Secretary, INMO

Editorial - Health service facing meltdown
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Irish Nurses & Midwives Organisation (Cumann Altrai agus Ban Cabhrach na hEireann). The Whitworth Building, North Brunswick Street, Dublin 7. T:0016640600 E:inmo@inmo.ie