Hospital at Portlaoise has so much going for it
My experience at Portlaoise Hospital has always been positive and, as recently as last year, they cured me of double pneumonia, which I contracted a few days after leaving St James’ Hospital where I had been treated for a major heart attack. Both in Portlaoise and at the Hermitage in Liffey Valley, I have been not only well-looked after but have always been treated as a human being, rather than an item on an industrial conveyor belt.
I understand that there was an administrative failure to provide a competent specialist in the maternity section of Portlaoise Hospital, which led to tragic circumstances for a number of families who are, rightly, very angry. I understand that this has largely been put right but the hospital has to endure the endless negative publicity which makes it harder to recruit staff.
Portlaoise Hospital is ideally situated with good roads from every direction. It has room for expansion. Without Portlaoise, other hospitals will have to expand and will be harder to reach. What the administrators have failed to realise is the larger the hospital, the greater the likelihood of patients picking up viruses and other germ infections, so that they can go in with something minor and come out with something very nasty. Putting chemist shops and cafes in hospitals only makes the situation worse.
I understand that medical students have to take out a loan of €100,000 to pay for their training. They have to pay this back with interest and take out costly insurance in case someone claims against them, so it is little wonder that they go to America or whereever doctors are paid the most.
Surely it would be a better system if the State paid their training fees, on condition they stayed in Ireland for 10 years after graduating.
I am amazed at the amount hospitals charge health insurers. I wonder again whether it is justified and whether those health insurers can survive under the circumstances.
Homelessness didn’t kill Jonathan
Ailín Quinlan’s article ‘Tragic death inspired play’ (Irish Examiner, December 7), which portrayed the death of the late Jonathan Corrie in 2014 in a doorway within a stone’s throw of Leinster House as being attributable to homelessness and the divide between the haves and the have-nots is largely erroneous in my view.
This unfortunate man’s pastor, a Church of Ireland clergyman, intimated back then that Mr Corrie was the owner of two houses — residential properties which would rule him out of contention as a homeless man and a have-not [Editor’s note: his adopted parents had bought him two houses but he sold them].
Consequently, the circumstances surrounding this man’s wretched life style and untimely death had nothing to do with the aforementioned issues but rather with mental illness. Translating this widespread problem into something else makes no sense, even at Christmas time.
Pay: Driving the message home
While unemployment has decreased over the last three years, the price of houses has steadily increased, but the number of homeless people has also increased.
It would seem that newcomers to the labour market are not being paid enough to be able to afford to buy a house. It would make sound economic sense to adjust the legal minimum wage to a level where people could afford a mortgage.
People who are saving to put down a deposit on a house find that when they reach that target the goalposts continue to move further away, as house prices spiral ever upwards.
Pay restoration would also go a long way to help people save for a home of their own. It would inject fresh capital into the economy. Will the government listen? The alternative is to condemn young people to a life of slavery to neo-feudalism.
Not all greyhounds are so lucky
Dog lovers around the country will have breathed a sigh of relief on hearing that the kidnapped greyhound Clares Rocket was recovered safe and well last week. And they will no doubt take some comfort from the fact that, as a highly valuable asset, the dog stands some chance of having a half decent life.
But let’s spare a thought for the thousands of healthy dogs who are discarded annually by the greyhound racing and coursing industries. Those who can no longer run fast enough, and those who never made the grade in the first place.
The luckier ones will end up in the country’s already overflowing animal shelters and dog pounds. The remainder (except those exported to meet their miserable fate in China) will end up in a hole in the ground.
Excessive IFA wages not feasible
I believe the IFA top 20 staff salaries are still excessive at around €100,000 on average and the new director general on €185,000, even after the recent review. A nurse’s salary is €30,000 per year and a Garda recruit up to recently can start on as little as €23,000. These IFA salaries must be upsetting to farmers when we are on less than the industrial wage ourselves for in excess of 70-plus hours work per week with these IFA staff on many times our wages for only 40 hours per week. The last year and a half have been horrendous for a farmer’s income where many of us had to borrow just to survive.
These excessive IFA wages just don’t make sense. In farming we have been conditioned to accept price volatility but if they are not delivering an acceptable standard of living to farmers then our leaders should react to alter this situation by action.
If I ran my farm this way by giving myself these Celtic Tiger wages then I would have been out of business years ago. In business when excessive wages are being paid it can put pressure on debt build up, employee’s pension schemes and cash flow. These excessive wages indicate a detachment from their farmer member’s income, which will keep going unless farmers say stop.
We must learn from the Celtic Tiger collapse where top earners said they were worth these wages but as the collapse has proven conclusively they were not. I believe that €70,000, including pension contributions, would be more than satisfactory pay for any staff member. The €120,000 for the IFA leader is still too high and his replacement worker on the farm should have been separated from him to make it more transparent.
Increase in price of stamps hard to lick
David McRedmond, recently appointed chief executive of An Post, advises that under his leadership a range of postal charges will increase by 14% to 35% in 2017.
He argues that the average price of a stamp across the EU is currently €1.06 and that the forthcoming price increases will be “the first strategic review since the recession”, implying ample headroom for the price increases he proposes and little public resistance.
McRedmond should be reminded that the price of a stamp has increased from €0.55 in 2008 to €0.72 currently, an increase of 31%, in an era when the volume of letters posted in the State coincidentally dropped by more than 30%, while the number of postal delivery points increased by 64,000 to 2,248,000. The Consumer Price Index declined by 0.1% between January 2008 and October 2016. This pricing history clearly demonstrates that the consumer is acutely sensitive to the price of a stamp and the quality of services rendered by An Post.
Stamp prices across the EU have little direct impact on the behaviour of the Irish consumer. The average stamp price that McRedmond alludes to are largely attributable to outrageous stamp prices charged in Scandinavia and Italy.
It is only a State monopoly that could engage in such one-dimensional Alice-in-Wonderland thinking that suggests the long-term future of the postal service can be assured through the imposition of aggressive charges. Power has shifted permanently to the consumer, who now has an unprecedented range of delivery options not to accept aggressive pricing by An Post, and they will act accordingly.
Return to sender
An Post and publicans seem to have a similar business model — when demand for their services declines, they put up the prices.
And like the publicans, An Post will be head-scratching to try to figure where it’s all going wrong.
Kudos to the Irish Examiner’s statements about our core beliefs (7/12/16) and burqas. Constitutional principles must trump religious behaviours. So too with abortion. Keep religion out of it.