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No Private Hospitals – Fund our Public Hospitals

category sligo | worker & community struggles and protests | press release author Wednesday July 28, 2010 23:08author by éirígí Sligeach - éirígíauthor email eirigisligeach at gmail dot com Report this post to the editors

Health Crisis is "Deliberately Manufactured

New savage cutbacks are to be introduced at Sligo and Letterkenny General hospitals and others around the country.
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The most recent General Purposes meeting of Sligo Borough Council on July 19 heard proposals to build yet another private hospital in Sligo. Planning permission has been sought to develop the hospital on a site just off the N4 at the Summerhill Roundabout on the approach to the town centre.

This is the third such proposal in recent times. Last year it was announced that plans are underway to build a €50 million private hospital right next to the existing Sligo General Hospital, while plans are also afoot to develop another such hospital at Carraroe.

All of this comes at a time when services at Sligo General Hospital are being slashed with further savage cutbacks already on their way. Last year seen a dramatic reduction in services, including the removal of vital Cancer services to Galway, the downgrading of the Stroke Unit, the shutdown of wards and the closure of 78 beds.

The figures for the number of people left waiting on trolleys in Sligo General Hospital betweeen January and May of this year stood at a staggering 876. Compared to the same period in 2007, the figure has more than doubled, up a massive increase of 419 people from 357.

As previously reported here, the Regional Director of Operations for HSE West John Hennessy confirmed in recent weeks that this year the Hospital was facing a budget deficit of €12 million and would mean new cutbacks which he admitted would impact on essential frontline services and would include yet more bed closures. Amongst the measures he indicated were on the way were a ban on purchasing equipment for the remainder of 2010 and the introduction of 5-day wards.

In the latest development at the hospital, staff were informed on Tuesday (July 27) that another eleven nursing positions were to go, a move that the INMO (Irish Nurses & Midwives Organisation) have said will have a "devestating impact" on essential frontline services. According to the INMO spokesperson, the proposed cuts would decimate services at the hospital.

Impact trade union have said that among the other measures to be implemented by the HSE will be a further 60 bed closures as well a significant reduction in drug stock levels. The HSE are also planning to alter the fixed term contracts of 25 employees. According to IMPACT, in some instances this will result in workers having their weekly hours reduced from 35 hours to as little as eight hours per week

Reacting to the HSE's plans, IMPACT's Richy Carrothers has said that among the many areas affected will be essential radiology and oncology services. In relation to the cuts in workers hours he said that "a reduction in the number of working hours, on the scale proposed, would devastate the lives of these workers."

He added: “Reducing working time to just eight hours per week would mean that these workers, who are engaged in delivering vital services in the North West, could not earn a living wage, and would have to join the other reported 3000 public servants whose incomes are so low that they would have to claim family income support (FIS) from the state.”

Further north at Letterkenny General Hospital, the news appears to be even worse. It is believed that up to 120 jobs are to go as well as the closure of the hospitals orthapaedic ward and it's medical rehabilitation unit. Day services are also set to be reduced and all elective surgery is to be cancelled for the remainder of this year.

Responding to the latest proposed cutbacks and HSE nationwide figures which reveal that around 2000 nursing and midwifery posts have been lost since the introduction of the moratorium on recruiting nurses and midwives, the INMO described the current situation as "unsafe and unworkable". The end result of this ban on recruitment is "longer waiting times for public patients for services, overcrowded hospitals with less inpatient beds, overworked staff and increased risks to both patients and staff" according to the INMO.

At Belmullet District Hospital in County Mayo, the recruitment ban has resulted in ten of the hospitals forty beds lying idle as they have not the staff to cater for them.

Now the Dublin government, and Mary Harney in particular, are flagging up even more savage cuts in health care in the upcoming budget. According to Harney the budget cuts in Health will be "substantial" and have "serious consequences for the health service". This weeks Sunday Tribune reported that those cuts are likely to be as high as €700 million.

Once again, not only will patients suffer and indeed die from the reduction in quantity and quality of service, but Harney has also revealed that the HSE would be focusing on changes in work practices and conditions within in the health service. If the government get their way, it is front line staff, already dangerously overworked and overstretched due to previous cutbacks resulting in increased workloads, who will have their already inadequate and unacceptable working conditions worsen.

And we know our health service is in deep crisis, but it is a deliberately manufactured crisis, one created by deliberate political decisions taken by successive Fianna Fáil led administrations. What we have witnessed in recent years, and this blog has repeatedly reported on, has been the systematic stripping down and removal of services from Sligo General Hospital and other hospitals around the country.

This has not been accidental or forced upon the 26 county government by forces beyond their control. Make no mistake about it. This is ideology driven, pure and simple. It is part of a deliberate strategy of running down the public health care system and increasingly privatising all aspects of health care, including our hospitals.

Fianna Fáil and the Greens are using the current economic crisis, brought about by a combination of greed and corruption by the wealthy political and business elite as a smokescreen for implementing these cuts and their real agenda, which is about privatising the public healthcare system.

Despite the Dublin government's claims, there is no excuse for cutting funding and services for hospitals. The money to properly fund our health service is there, only they believe spending tens of billions on bank bailouts and up to €10 million on bringing the English Monarch here, are more important than spending on people's health - well on working people's health anyway.

At the time of last years budget, Finance Minister Brian Lenihan attempting to justify his savage cutbacks said that there was "no pot of gold that can be raided from the wealthy that can solve our difficulties”. What he said then was untrue and remains so today. The business elite in this country, who amassed billions of euros on the backs of workers throughout the so-called 'Celtic Tiger', remain wealthy individuals. Indeed, despite the economic recession, the richest people in this country have got even richer.

There are also hundreds of billions of euro worth of oil and gas lying under the seabed off the Irish coast, the rights to these resources shamefully given away to multi-national corporations such as Shell, by previous Fianna Fáil-led administrations. Those natural resources could and should be nationalised at the stroke of a pen.

Yet Lenihan and his cronies in the Fianna Fáil/Green Party coalition have taken deliberate political decisions not to nationalise these natural resources and not to make the rich pay. Instead they are content to reduce the incomes of low paid workers and welfare recipients and slash essential health and education services.

So is there a solution? Of course there is - but that solution is not in private hospitals. They have no place in the provision of health care. Private companies mean a hospitals priority is creating profit for shareholders, rather than patient care.

Private hospitals and private health care are also clearly not in the interests of working people, both those that use and need our health service and those that work within it. Ironically the site of this new proposed private hospital is located adjacent to St Joseph's private hospital, the owners of which, the Mount Carmel Medical Group, in the past week have claimed an inability to pay redundancy in the region of €400,000 as recommended by the Labour Court to their former workers.

What we currently have in this state is a form of medical apartheid. Those who can afford to pay, get their treatment when they seek it. Those who cannot afford to pay are forced to endure lengthy waiting times for treatment that they may need right away. The increased numbers of people waiting more than three months for a colonoscopy (see here for previous story on Colonoscopy waiting lists) is just one example of how an essential procedure that could save a persons life is denied for lengthy periods to those who cannot afford to go private. The end result of these delays for many people is quite often completely unnecessary suffering and death.

This two-tier apartheid system is completely unacceptable and needs to be dismantled immediately. Health care is a basic human right - not a privilege - that must be free, easily accessable by all and must be completely under public control. Patients must be treated based on their medical need, not their ability to pay as things currently stand.

Related Link: http://www.eirgisligeach.blogspot.com
author by lilian o neill - inmopublication date Wed Jul 28, 2010 23:39author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Its shocking what the HSE and FF have got away with

author by children_of_lirpublication date Thu Jul 29, 2010 09:40author address author phone Report this post to the editors

When our children feel helpless due to Minister Mary Harney's mismanagement of her health portfolio, we really have reached the end of a long road that has no turning. A young man wrote to The Independent that if he wasn't doing his undergraduate studies, he would leave this "miserable country." He further states: "It is disgraceful to think that sick or dying people are forced to travel such long distances to arrive at over-stretched facilities such as those in Galway."

Related Link: http://www.independent.ie/opinion/letters/our-health-se....html

It's a spiraling and deep crisis in Ireland. The iconic store Arnott's could be sold for one Euro:

Related Link: http://www.independent.ie/national-news/arnotts-could-b....html

What can be done when the main political parties are corrupt and incompetent?

More importantly, what should we tell our children? To stay in this bleak country without a future or to migrate if they have that chance? It sends shivers down my spine and the tears are not far away.

author by Liampublication date Thu Jul 29, 2010 11:17author address author phone Report this post to the editors

http://sligotoday.ie/details.php?id=10225

From todays Sligo Today

author by Union Member - IMPACTpublication date Fri Jul 30, 2010 11:38author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Over the last few years everything at the hospital is being cut. At the moment it is virtually impossible to even get some spare pillows. Its a joke and its putting increases pressure on the nurses who have to try to cope with a massively increased workload. What Cowen and Harney are doing is criminal

author by Derrick the Driverpublication date Mon Sep 27, 2010 23:00author address author phone Report this post to the editors

A Polemic on Health Cuts and Privatisation:
The media ‘Silly Season’ will soon have played itself out after a summer spent gorging on a feast of Ivor Callely, much navel gazing over politicians expenses and our governments self-inflicted banking crisis.
Meanwhile, as the Taoiseach is embroiled in controversy over his drinking habits, over 46,000 people wait on a list for hospital treatment in our public hospitals, with the highest number waiting in Galway (27,000).
It must be time for some serious minded journalist to focus more closely on the things which matter now to real people. Issues like job creation, economic recovery, how we are to hold on to our houses, now especially, the dire state of public hospital and elder care services in Galway.
I believe some developers who invested in building the raft of flashy new private hospitals and clinics that infest our cities may now be worrying if they too will be enmeshed in NAMA, as loans taken out to fund such developments begin to fall due, but cannot be covered.
I say this, having noted the reported “write down of e40m taken on Mount Carmel” (Irish Times – Business Today, 23rd August) as an example of problems elsewhere, but yet to emerge.
Dr Muiris Houston, writing in the Irish Times 21st August, says we are Sleepwalking towards health nightmare as HSE battles reality, he states “THE HEALTH service is the next financial crisis waiting to happen. Healthcare is likely to implode in the same way the banks and the financial system did. Yet we seem, as a nation, content to sleepwalk our way into a similar meltdown of our public health system.”
This reminded me of the reasons for my 2002 objection to Galway City Councils grant of permission for the Blackrock Medical Partners, to build a Not For Profit private clinic (now to be known as the Galway Clinic). Readers will detect throughout this opinion piece, my virulent opposition to the privatisation of healthcare services in Ireland which reduces governments ability to invest in the public health system, and is predicated on Mary Harneys view, that Americanising healthcare in Ireland is the ‘way to go’.
I have no problem with the development of private hospitals per se. If consultants, or developers wish to build a hospital or clinic using their own funds, or borrowed money; that is no problem. But I stop short of tolerating the use of public funds provided by the foregoing of taxes due, when the public health system is being decimated through lack of clear leadership.
Mary Harney, who has no mandate and represents no party, as a member of cabinet in the former FF/PD government was known to favour a policy of privatising healthcare, and has worked towards achieving this for many years.
What with the early contracting out of catering, cleaning and ambulance services to private suppliers, the process of dissembling the public service is now well under way and is almost complete.
At the time the Clinic in Galway was seeking planning, Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and the almost forgotten PD councillors and TD’s were falling over themselves to promote their friends (developers) construction plans for this medical cash cow. Considerable political pressure was being put into securing this ‘so called’ “iconic development” for Galway. One local FF TD (Frank Fahey) going to the trouble of haunting the public gallery at council meetings to ensure a positive outcome to planning. The only two councillors opposing were Cllrs Catherine Connolly, and Tom Costello of Labour. They were outgunned in a 13-2 vote.
Meanwhile in a submission made against granting planning, I made the point that such development would inevitably lead to a further slump in government funding and an end to proper management of public healthcare in Galway. That this would further consolidate the creation of a two tier health system, now firmly rooted. Operations no longer possible to arrange in the public hospitals, would be directed towards the private clinics, courtesy of the governments setting up of NTPF, National Treatment Purchase Fund.
How right have I been so far?
In a subsequent appeal to An Bord Pleanala I repeated my assertion that, the development of a second private hospital in Galway would lead to a drop off in government funding for the continuation of public health facilities in the city, that frontline staff would be tempted away from the public system into the private clinics, and that all who would be left to use the dwindling public services would be the elderly, disabled, the unemployed and young families with children. Many of whom could no longer afford the increasing cost of maintaining private health insurance. Just look in at any clinics queue to see I am right.
Harney then ensured that her political ally Charlie McCreevey, would insert a late amendment into the 2001 Finance Act, which allowed that the builders, investors and developers of private health emporia could avail of tax breaks writing off 100% of their building and equipment costs against tax over seven years. She has only been partially successful in giving over public lands for the development of private hospitals (co-location as it was called) but has not so far got away with this in Galway, though she did try!
Effectively, the public purse now subsidises middle and upper class private healthcare, and nobody else shouted stop!
Both Fine Gael and the Labour Party have failed to prevent any of this happening and we are very far away from realising their dream of developing workable policies which promote ‘universal’ health care. With the sluice gates now wide open private health consortia began to spring up all over the country, and the public health system was landed with with the HSE, Hiqua and the NTPF. All cleverly designed to feed work directly into the private clinic system to boost developers profits.
With campaign groups now springing up all around the country belatedly trying to stop the rot, and with government planning to close many more local hospital services; I salute the brave people of Roscommon, Ballinasloe, Ennis, Mallow, Navan and the many others who have at last seen through this governments savage privatisation plans.
The thirty year old slogan “Fianna Fail Damages your Health” is still as relevant today as it was in Charlies time.
People have at last come onto the streets but numbers are still low.
It does not surprise me that in Galway the public have been much slower in seeing the light. For years local media lauded all that was going to be good about building these private temples to mammon. With all who opposed such progress being dubbed as luddites.
These glass edifices are now up and running in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Waterford and Galway. With Jimmy Sheehan at one time featuring on Galway Bay FM almost every other week telling us of his dream for a community led ’Not for Profit’ clinic while pleading for his clinic to hoover up more NTPF work! Nevertheless. When new shareholders and different banks came onboard (among them Larry Goodman, the infamous Beef Baron), it was not long before the Not for Profit ethos was dropped in favour of a ‘For Profit’ aggressive business ethic. An 8m profit was wracked up last year alone.
A couple of Galways orthopaedic surgeons, Mr Brian Curtin & Mr Stephen Kearns working at Merlin Park hospital, have recently gone public expressing fear for their ability to continue to treat public patients into the future. As Merlin Parks orthopaedic unit is now to be downgraded to become a 5 day unit to save money. Many patients already having to wait for up to two years just to see them. Never mind that they might then have to wait another two or three before getting their hip or knee replaced, if at all!
With Merlin Park hospital even further reducing its services, to save money, it will become almost impossible for orthopaedic surgeons to operate there given that the average stay for hip/knee surgery can be upwards of seven days. More complicated spinal surgery will almost certainly cease to be done in Galway, again lengthening waiting lists for a trip up the motorway to Dublin.
It surely will not then be long before we see announcements coming from HSE West, telling us that, because of the low volume and complexity of the surgical activity at Merlin Park it was “no longer tenable” to continue to perform those surgeries and they should be moved to alternative sites.
Hiqua will be quoted by the media as citing “patient safety” issues as the reason.
‘Cai Bono?’ who will benefit as increasing pressure on Galway University Hospital may lead to an increase in “healthcare error”? Why, the private clinics your tax has already paid for, of course.
It is being reported at Galway University College Hospital, that one ENT consultant (Mr. Peter Gormley) had openly told parents of a seven year old girl “to beg, borrow or steal enough money to pay for vital treatment” because the HSE could not provide a service to which she was entitled. Galway Sentinel page 9, 7th Sept, 2010. That a position of Senior Audiological Scientist (I think the paper meant Senior Audiologist), has been vacant since 2002.
It is now apparent that Mr Ciaran Brady, a locum consultant paediatric urologist is not having his contract renewed, leaving the hospital without a paediatric urology service. It is reported that “33 children were scheduled for surgery or consultation today alone.” City Tribune, Sept 10th.
This means that 33 families will have to trek up to Dublins Crumlin Hospital, to join a long queue for treatment. Meanwhile 5 Radiotherapists jobs are being axed.
Allocations for operating time are being even further reduced because of the lack of staff, brought about by employment embargoes and funding cut-backs.
With consultants unable to get theatre time having to sit out time (while still being paid) but unable to do public work. It will be inevitable that yet more surgical cases are directed towards private clinics via the NTPF or, to face long journeys to Dublin.
All of this is of course likely to cost more in the long term, as people become sicker. The HSE is a busted flush, a failed entity. The 11 Health Boards it replaced were inadequate in their ability to run hospitals efficiently. But the HSE has been no better and has succumbed to over manning and bureaucratic hand wringing at management level, while costing the tax payer more to run.
This government apparently care more for saving banks than for saving lives. It is time for a sleeping Irish public to wake up to this destruction of a once good public health service (it was never perfect), that is being dissembled in front of our eyes to the favour of private greed.
It is noted that, due to the crash in the economy, the number of people now covered by private health insurance is continuing to fall. A reduction of 10,000 for the past three months alone has been reported, 47,000 over the past eighteen months.
Finally. As yet another example of poor health resource planning - having spent millions educating nurses to degree level at their shiny new purpose built School of Nursing in St Anthonys, NUIG. HSE West. We have seen 30 of last years nursing graduates end up emigrating, now to work at Whipps Cross hospital in east London (my old hospital). While many of this years graduates are also heading off, but to Romford, Essex. Where they will be well received and treated as adults. Being quickly given more responsibility to manage than they are ever likely to be given in Ireland, if they could get jobs here.

Our University Medical Schools are meanwhile cashing in by training hundreds of non-national doctors, who all pay higher fees for the privilege. Many young Irish doctors are forced to leave Ireland to continue their studies elsewhere, because they cannot get work here. This is not a racist remark. It is simply what is happening!
Meanwhile UCHG continues to rely on agency staff, and community care nurses are giving way to the introduction of private homecare companies (eg Bluebird, Comfort Keepers and Home Instead etc), who do not come cheap but by employing non-national labour are profitable. These agencies are springing up all over the place.
I understand that HSE West have, at the last count, over 70 rented facilities (offices) to run. But that many of these are empty or unoccupied. With huge availability of space at Merlin Park, there should surely be no reason to waste so much public money on renting unoccupied offices?
I suspect that the run-down of the half closed (public) St Francis elder care home and the sale of the land it stands on, in Upper Newcastle, will soon be made to NUIG; then to be replaced by the new 60 bed St Marys (private) nursing home, under construction on Shantalla Road.
All in all, the creeping privatisation of healthcare in Galway is gathering pace. While public health facilities are being starved of funding by a Minister who has ensured that she is now being shielded from blame by her own creation, the HSE, and getting away with it.

Derrick the Driver trained and then worked as an Operating Theatre Technician at Whipps Cross Hospital in 1970’s London, then went on to represent several hospital equipment companies in England & Ireland as a sales rep. He believes strongly that the only solution to our present healthcare crisis is for the next government to develop a ‘Universal’ Free at point of delivery - National Public Health Service. Paid for by an increased PRSI subscription, this to be based on ability to pay, while being free those who cannot afford to pay.

 
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