ENDA KENNY sold us a five-point plan to become Taoiseach but, since taking power, he has been implementing a secret five-word plan on the health service: “Keep a lid on it.”
This week that plan blew up in his face.
People being forced to endure 29-hour stints on trolleys or chairs in Irish hospitals was nothing new. Trolley counts, strike ballots and opposition Dáil theatrics are commonplace. We ignore them. Mr Kenny ignores them. He ‘Keeps a lid on it’.
But it was the story of a 91-year-old with Parkinson’s who spent 27 hours on a trolley in Tallaght Hospital, in an ordeal one crusading doctor described as an act of “torture”, that meant we could no longer ignore the disgusting state of our Emergency Departments.
We didn’t have to look far for similar stories; we all have them in our own families and at least 30 patients a day are waiting 24-hours or more in grim conditions. However, it’s the elderly left in such inhumane conditions that can’t be explained away.
There is no cure for ageing and the problems it will bring us all. This 91-year-old didn’t need a cure, he needed care. And this was when Ireland was found to be at its most careless.
The whistleblower is being attacked and this journalist will be accused of Enda-blaming for the sake of it.
But Mr Kenny is to blame. He didn’t appear in posters promising to “End the scandal of ropey wireless at the Web Summit”.
He promised to “End the scandal of patients on trolleys”.
As the longest serving deputy, Mr Kenny is the father of the Dáil and has spent the majority of his career in opposition participating in the theatrics that shouted ‘shame’ at the minister for health of the day.
Taking power with a huge majority in 2011 was Mr Kenny’s chance to show he could do better but, in the four-and-a-half years since, he has issued more press releases about Rory McIlroy and Graham McDowell’s golfing successes than he has about the health service.
The Taoiseach opens facilities and buildings at the drop of a hat but has kept his eyes and ears closed on health matters when their urgency has been obvious.
The removal of medical cards from vulnerable children had to become politically toxic after the Irish Examiner exposed it day after day before the Taoiseach and his circle of advisors did the right thing and abandoned the cruel policy.
It was also political toxicity that led to Mr Kenny’s biggest intervention in health in 2014 when he personally performed a doctor transplant.
Dr Reilly was replaced with Dr Varadkar, and now “Keep-A-Lid-On-It-Leo” just shrugs his shoulders at every new calamity, says how awful it all is, and rolls his eyes in a “nothing to do with me, guv, I’m just the Health Minister” kind of way.
And Dr Do-Little Mr Varadkar was opening up his old black bag of little tricks over the latest outrage by insisting the 91-year old was “caught in the crossfire” in a conflict between emergency department staff and management at Tallaght Hospital.
No, Mr Varadkar, he was not. He was caught in the chaos of your incompetent handling of the health service you have failed to get a grip on in the past 16 months.
And to make things worse, Keep-A-Lid-On-It-Leo has now rounded on the whistle blower in a diversionary tactic to try and shift attention from the real story.
Funny how Mr Varadkar only seems to champion whistle blowers when they damage the careers of rival ministers like Alan Shatter.
Also, isn’t it funny how Eamon Gilmore revealed he and his chief flunky started crying after Joan Burton unceremoniously tossed him out of Cabinet after leading the Labour Party to mid-term disaster, because he doesn’t mention crying about medical cards being snatched from disabled children under his watch?
Rather than feeding resources to where they are needed at the sharp end of the system, Gilmore and Burton bought in to a middle class tax bribe that sees healthy five-year-olds from wealthy families get free GP care while sick seven-year-olds from poorer backgrounds are left out in the cold.
How Ms Burton must have believed she had gotten through the fright night of Hallowe’en only to see Mr Gilmore emerge from the political coffin she stuffed him into to come back and haunt her.
Even British Labour’s very own self-styled prince of darkness, Peter Mandelson, waited until after a tricky and sticky general election before rushing out his score-settling memoirs. But it seems Mr Gilmore could not show such decency and restraint and thoroughly shafts his successor ahead of a Dáil showdown that was never going to turn out well for Labour.
While there is little doubt that Joan does deserve being on the receiving end of his righteous anger, it would have served his more loyal colleagues better if he had managed to postpone the feud frenzy until the polling stations at least had closed.
Revenge porn has become one of the catch-phrases of the year but it seems Mr Gilmore is interested in revenge scorn when it comes to Ms Burton.
Mr Gilmore tried to excuse his J’accuse tirade against the Tánaiste by insisting the book was all about how great Labour is and what a wonderful recovery he had delivered to us.
Yet, it is perverse that this government’s favourite word is ‘recovery’ when the recovery of people like the 91-year-old Tallaght patient is put at serious risk by their torture in our hospital corridors.
It’s high time to blow the lid off Kenny and Varadkar’s hypocritical incompetence on health.