Patients association calls for 'equity of access to healthcare'

Access to health services based on need should be a constitutional right, the Irish Patients' Association has urged.

Co-founder of the association, Stephen McMahon, who hosted a conference on patients' rights in Dublin said some public patients have no quality of life because of treatment delays.

“Like unclaimed baggage on a carousel, they wait their turn to be treated. This is unfair,” said Mr McMahon.

“It's time we began a long overdue conversation on equity of access to healthcare based on need as a constitutional right.”

Mr McMahon highlighted the plight of two elderly women who became housebound after waiting so long for treatment:

The system should not be so cruel as to leave those women with no quality of life. And it is shocking is that these women needed help from a patient advocate to be recognised as patients in need of care.

Professor of health systems in Dublin City University, Prof Anthony Staines, said Ireland's ageing population is being used as an excuse to deliver an inadequate health service.

Urging a rights-based approach to health care access, Prof Staines, said the real problem is not the ageing population but the way health services are being run.

“Our spend on healthcare is very high and close to the top in Europe however you measure it,” he said.

Executive director of the Sláintecare health reform project, Laura Magahy, said Sláintecare will ensure that everyone has access to the right care, in the right place at the right time.

Ms Magahy said the Sláintecare principles echo the spirit of the European Charter of Patient Rights that espouses patients rights including access, quality of care and safety.

She said a “programmatic approach” is being taken to the implementation of the 10-year plan.

Sláintecare is a vision for a new health service in Ireland detailed in the report from the Oireachtas Committee on the Future of Healthcare published on May 30, 2017.

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