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A New Low but the Same Outcome?

The Health Services have reached a new low and all that has happened is unbelievable but not surprising. In medicine there will be mistakes no matter how good the consultants, doctors, and nurses are but when a mistake is made it should be made known immediately so that it can be rectified ASAP. The bravery of Vicky Phelan in standing up to the pressure to sign a Silence clause, of using the courts to prove her case and opening her private life to the world, not for herself, but for others is awe-inspiring but begs the question – why did she have to do that? The person or persons who were responsible for causing this terrible extra trauma for Vicky and her family have a lot to answer for.

However there are others who must also be held responsible and it is not just Mr. O’Brien. This is just another in a long string of crises in our health services which only come to the fore and the attention of the public when some patient or family go to the media with a story of neglect, mistake or lack of services. Once it hits the streets in print, radio or TV the politicians jump to attention. For the parties in Opposition this is an opportunity to have a go at those in power, and for those in power a time to assure the public that ‘we will hold a review to ascertain the facts and then draw up procedures to make sure this type of problem never happens again’ and pray that some other story will get headlines and deflect the flak from one Minister to another, from one Department to another. Once the Media drops a story the Government can breathe a sigh of relief and get back to the usual routine of making promises and opening services, which depend of voluntary donations to stay in existence.

It is only right that the Minister is angry at not getting the proper information until minutes before he went into the Dail. It is only right that he is mad and angry at what happened to Vicky Phelan and all the other women who have been confirmed. It is only right that he regrets the deaths of those who could be still alive had they been told the truth. However I must ask a question. Consultants tell us that about 300 people will die needlessly each year because of the overcrowding in A & E’s, the spread of infection in overcrowded waiting rooms and wards, the mistakes made by overworked and stressed staff, the delay for hundreds of thousands of patients waiting on an appointment, on diagnosis and on treatment and these needless deaths have not resulted in solutions to the problems causing them but just promises that they would be tackled and everything done to change the situation but first – let’s have a review!! In the case of the CervicalScreening – surely all smear tests since year???? should be reviewed. All negative and positive results would need reviewing. But I still ask the question – since they have not solved the crises of trolleys (a national emergency!!), waiting lists, overcrowding, the mass exodus of our nurses and doctors, the scarcity of GP’s, the lack of consultants, the bulging and money-absorbing administration, proper management of services, etc etc. will they solve this problem?

Doctors and nurses are fleeing the country because they do not want to work in the system we have here and what has happened to Vicky and the others shows that they have reason to fear this system. But then we have had so many other examples of a system that is incompetent. When Mary Harney set up the HSE we called it a ‘smokescreen’ behind which the Government could hide because they were not willing to take on the challenge of righting the system, of tackling the vested interests and of directing funding to where it was needed and instead set up the HSE to take the flak when things went belly-up. When Monaghan was trying to save services in Monaghan General Hospital we were tossed like a volleyball from Government to HSE and back again. Things will not change until such time as the people of this country shout it very clearly that ‘enough is enough’ but it will take more than a few hundred in Monaghan and a few hundred in Roscommon. If it has not already affected you or your family you should be concerned as it could be your turn tomorrow and it might then be too late for you to shout. If they tell us that there is no money to do what needs to be done there is an answer to that too – let’s look at the ways they waste money and they are plenty.

The other worrying thing that has come to light is the possibility of a ‘conflict of interests’ among the decision makers. Monaghan General Hospital would have a poor chance of being heard if that were so and the possibility is enough to shatter our trust in those who are making the decisions. So come on Simon and Leo – let’s see what you are really made of. Forget the 'reviews' and get solutions, get changes, get the system to work properly, put the patient first and not the vested interests. With an election coming soon you don’t have much time to clean up the mess but at least you can start.

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