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Emergency Irish Hospitals In Chaos - Author Marie O Connor

Wednesday, 4 April 2007


Winter-vomiting, superbugs, life-threatening waiting lists and now a nurses work-to-rule.  How sick is our health service?  This book may contain the worrying answers.

Emergency Irish Hospitals in Chaos is a new book that exposes the reality behind claims that we have a 'world class' health service.  Instead, it highlights vested interests, the crisis of patients on A & E trolleys, taxpayers picking up insurance tabs for consultants and the trend of 'empire building' from private sector medical care providers.

The book was only launched last Friday and is timely given the current work-to-rule by 40,000 nurses nationwide which started on Monday morning

About Marie
Marie has been writing on health issues for 20 years and is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster.  She currently writes a column for the Northern Standard and is spokesperson for the anti-Hanly Health Services Group. 

She believes the situation in our hospitals and health service is actually much worse than people actually realise.  She says frontline staff can testify to this and that there is spin put on issues such as the people waiting on trolleys.  In the case of patients on trolleys, many are being put into day beds thus bringing down the trolley figures but pushing patients out of day beds or increasing the amount of people waiting to access these day beds.  She says it's like shifting the deckchairs on the Titanic!  This massaging of the figures has contributed to 22,000 people being on waiting lists this year for operations.
Maire worries that with the running down of public services, people are forced to go the private route and feel this is the only option but the experience of America in particular shows the pitfalls of the private system where many on good incomes now cant afford health care in the state, 46 million in fact!

In regard of the likes of MRSA ( methicillin -resistant S.aureus), VRSA ( vancomycin-resistant staph aureus) and VRE ( Vancomycin-resistant enterococcus), the hospitals and the HSE's head, Brendan Drumm, refuse to release exact figures as to the level of infection to stop public worry!  She maintains that if the figures were out there, and the public were fully informed, people would stay away or visit the sick less which would help cut down the rate of infection.  Also, hospitals don't have the resources to fight the infections correctly with infected people being treated alongside those that don't have infection.

The Disease Surveillance Centre is trying to do what it can to monitor the situation but it's hampered by limited resources and the scale of the problem.  Other countries have managed to eradicate MRSA but Marie says we are now too far gone due to over-proscribing of antibiotics etc, but we need to urgently fight the situation which is not being done in the right way.

Another issue tackled is the situation where consultants can work in the public system, and during their working day, go off site and work for the private sector while still also paid the full amount for their public service contract.  The minister has tried to tackle this but has backed down as their union, IHCA, has threatened action.  The actual contracts that allow this form of double-jobbing dates back to Charles Haughey's time.  Negotiations continue but Marie maintains that the political will has to be there to push these onwards and then the money saved could be ploughed back into the public sector.

On foot of the findings that many public health systems could be insolvent between 2015 - 202-, Marie says she feels if that this kind of melt down could be avoided but that the current minister favours people turning to the private sector as opposed to saving the public.

Other issues include taxpayers footing the bill for consultants' insurance, the system of spin in connection to the actual facts, and despite money being ploughed into the system, much of it goes on funding things like the consultants and their double-job situation.

In the longterm, Marie firmly believes that the system can be saved and be effective but it needs a real political will and, even moreso, political backbone.  For that to happen, the public will have to stop subsidising the private, the waiting times will have to be brought down and any monetary waste alleviated.

For More Information
Emergency Irish Hospitals In Chaos is published by Gill and MacMillan and is priced at €12.99