Clare patient’s death - Majority are subsidising the few

The death yesterday of Ian McDonnell, 59, raises further serious questions about the state of our health service.

The father of three suffered a cardiac arrest as he was being rushed to hospital in Limerick, because the A&E facilities at Ennis General Hospital are closed between 8pm and 8am.

Is the HSE suggesting the people of Clare should plan their accidents and emergencies to convenience the health service? Members of the late Mr McDonnell’s family believe he might have been saved if he had been treated in Ennis. His doctor stopped short of that conclusion, but he did say that the HSE could have a case to answer.

A doctor from Cork told the conference of the Irish Medical Organisation in Killarney at the weekend that one of his patients with acute rheumatoid arthritis was told that she has an appointment with a specialist, but she will have to wait two years and eight months. The doctor, Ciaran Donovan, naturally feels it is a misnomer to call this a service.

Those who have private health insurance, or are prepared to pay cash, can obtain a prompt appointment. In most cases the consultants are employed by the State and they are essentially being allowed to fast track patients who are prepared to pay them extra for their services. This amounts to a form of health apartheid in which private clinics are effectively discriminating again poorer people. This is not confined to rheumatoid diagnostic services, but across the board. It applies to access to diagnostics such as ultrasounds, CT scans and MRI.

A doctor from Louth said that patients have to wait up to four months for ultrasound in Dundalk. If he rings the radiologist he gets an answering machine. Doctors have to refer patients to the outpatients’ department. The same applies in Dublin.

There are even protected slots for private patients with insurance at public hospitals, while other members of the general public — who have been paying for these facilities — have to wait.

A doctor from Drogheda told the IMO conference that a patient with a suspected swelling of the pituitary gland would have to wait eight months for a CT scan, so the doctor requested a plain film skull X-ray, even though he knew that a CT scan was a superior diagnostic tool.

The CT scan is not so superior that the patient should wait for eight months. This means that people have to do with inferior treatment so that those who are prepared to pay privately can enjoy preferential treatment at the public expense. This amounts to institutionalised bribery.

The many are effectively subsiding the few. If these things had happened while this country was under British rule, such outrageous behaviour would be cited as conclusive proof of the need to establish our own independent republic. Tolerating such behaviour is a perversion of republicanism.

We should recognise that elements of an indifferent elite are being allowed to turn this country into a “banana republic”.


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