The Irish health system is failing in terms of cost, patient satisfaction and waiting times, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), indicated on the 8th of March, International Women’s Day. And they say it is likely to get worse. Four days later it was reported that 714 sick people were on trolleys awaiting beds in Irish hospitals, a new record.
Yet, almost at the same time, the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, was, yet again, preoccupied with abortion. Fiddling while Rome burns would be a nice way to put it, if the issue were not so serious.
Aneurin Bevan, the UK Minister for Heath in 1948, a time of post-war crisis across the water, said that “We ought to take pride in the fact that, despite our financial and economic anxieties, we are still able to do the most civilised thing in the world – put the welfare of the sick in front of any other consideration.”
If putting the welfare of the sick is a first consideration, Ireland’s health system is a reflection of the uncivilised society we are becoming. Our Health system is presided over by Simon Harris. Previously there was Leo Varadkar. Before that, Micheal Martin.
Our health system is an increasingly dysfunctional public service. It is not, and has not been, a matter of money. Part of the problem has been a lack of focus of each of the Health ministers on the role.
Micheal was focused on dismantling the regional health board and installing the HSE- a move that was designed to centralise control but created a bureaucracy. From 2014-16, Leo was too interested in positioning himself to dethrone Enda Kenny.
And now Simon Harris is busy. Busy with the business of legalising the killing of preborn babies.
In 2016, Ireland ranked the worst in a survey of European countries for long waiting list times: both in terms of the number of people waiting and the length of time. The worst.
On 15th of January there were 73 children on trolleys in emergency departments in Irish hospitals. 2400 people were on trolleys over the first week of 2018. After the first 6 months of 2017, 50,000 people had been on trolleys. The numbers are staggering – and all this after Simon Harris said he was doing something about it.
In October 2017 there were over 680,000 people on hospital waiting lists in Ireland. During the first three months of 2017, 1,240 patients in Scotland died while waiting for treatment. In Ireland, we don’t know how many died
And Simon Harris said that “no effort or resource is being spared” on January 2nd to improve the crisis in the health service after the number of people waiting on trolleys hit a record 656. A day later the number hit 677.
It seems that the only area where ‘no effort’ is being spared is in Minister Harris’s near-obsessive drive to oversee the removal of the 8th Amendment and introduce an anti-health bill that will allow, or even compell, doctors and nurses to participate in taking the lives of one of the patients in a pregnancy.
Leo, Micheal and Simon are three Irish politicians who have very recently underwent personal conversions in their views on abortion. Once each held a civilised respect for life and would have described themselves as pro-life.
Now they are dogmatic cheerleaders for the abortion industry in Ireland.
This week Simon Harris said that the labels ‘pro-choice’ and ‘pro-life’ were relics of a bygone era. He then proceeded to proclaim that he himself still is ‘pro-life’. He, like Leo and Micheal, no longer refer to the child in their calculus. They are all pro-life except pro the life that gets taken in abortion.
And Minister for Health Simon Harris, is a man in an incredible hurry to remove the only Constitutional protection for the unborn child.
On International Women’s Day when the OECD was highlighting the failing state of the system under his charge, he was busy implying, yet again, that Savita Halappanavar died due to the 8th. This is a untrue. Three enquiries show that she died due to failings of the health service that is now under his charge.
And this is a service that continues to deteriorate as Minister Harris cheerleads on his anti-health legislation. It is chilling to hear a Health Minister claim, in relation to a bill that will promote the taking of innocent life: “I’m really looking forward to bringing that wording and the referendum bill into the Dail”.
What is that wording? “Provision may be made in law for regulation of termination of a pregnancy.” It is a strange kind of person that looks forward to introducing such legislation.
“It is very appropriate and fitting that on this day the Irish Government has taken a decision that we will have a referendum to repeal the 8th amendment and that we will have finalised the wording for that referendum,” Mr Harris said.
Unwittingly, thinking he was pandering to his audience, he did not realise, and probably did not even know, that the appropriateness was in the taking of this uncivilised decision at the same time as the OECD highlighted how we are failing to do the most civilised thing in the world.
In August, Mr Harris told Newstalk that he had an “open mind” on recommendations from the Citizens Assembly that there be unrestricted access to abortion in Ireland for pregnancies up to 12 weeks.
GK Chesterton once said “Don’t be so open-minded that your brains fall out”. One feels that Simon, Leo and Micheal have fallen into this trap.
Maybe it has something to do with dealing with ‘Angola’ as Brian Cowen called the Ministry of Health. Maybe in their haste to be the next bright young thing in Government they see the taking of lives as a more convenient solution than trying to save them.
Dualta Roughneen is a writer and researcher