The 4 year Plan will further destroy the health service


While the state continues to be rocked by the result of devastating effects of 10 years of rampant capitalism crashing the focus has been conveniently been shifted from the serious problems within our health service. A common belief is that before things get better they must get worse and under the 4 year plan they are about to get a lot worse. In the case of a health service this couldn’t be further from the truth. The obvious result of a worsening health service is higher national morbidity and mortality. Are we prepared to allow this to occur?

While the current coven of ministers prepare to vacate their comfy chairs in Leinster house, one in particular seems to have no sense of shame – Mary Harney, who was recently quoted as having no regrets for her actions during her tenure. We are all keenly aware of the litany of bad choices and u-turns made by Ms. Harney over the years. Today the government literally added insult to injury. The announcement of the now infamous “Four Year Plan” serves to confirm our worst fears that devastating changes are to be implemented both economically and physically to the health service.

What will this mean for the overstretched health service? It is not difficult to imagine a general and rapid stagnation of the services. The reduction of frontline staff – nurses, NCHD’s, healthcare assistants, porters and allied healthcare workers – will undoubtedly impact massively on service users/patients. Today the number of ill patients stuck on trolleys is 305 according to INMO’s ‘TrolleyWatch’. This number will most certainly increase exponentially as planned bed closures continue. The current amount of closed beds around the country stands at over 1500.

Government and HSE rhetoric has led us to believe that we have a health service that is modelled on Centres of Excellence. The reality for patients and families is far from an experience of excellence as was recently highlighted by case of a patient with advanced cancer who spent 25 hours on an A&E trolley awaiting treatment –despite having high level private health insurance. This reality will become more likely for more and more patients – particularly those who do not have the privilege of health insurance – which will mean even more higher paid workers, due to the reduced income all are going to suffer based on today’s announcement.

Frontline staff who are already working in dangerous conditions nationwide due to increased workload and reduced resources are now to be faced with even further draconian measures. Not satisfied with the long running moratorium, now the government want to remove a further 13,000 public sector jobs many of which will be cut from the health services. It is worth noting that few managerial positions have been lost in a HSE that is considered by many as being top heavy with management. Instead of losing managers we will see the loss through injury and illness of ordinary healthcare worker due to unsafe working environments directly caused by the savage cuts proposed in the pending budget.

It is clear who is going to suffer the most – patients and service users. With less staff, beds and resources it is unlikely that excellence will become the norm in the health service. On paper outstanding policies and procedures can make a healthcare centre appear excellent, however paper does not provide the care. We can expect more suffering in the years to come for the individuals and their families and the general health of our society.

A change of government is not going to improve things either. Fine Gael’s policy on healthcare is simple – get everyone to pay for themselves, as they do in the Netherlands, of course there it costs individuals up to €1000 per annum. The kind of care they have had in the USA prior to recent changes brought in by Obama. This is the kind of changes relished by IMF and World Bank type institutions who always attack health services with their Structural Adjusment Programmes (SAP).

The outlook for health is bleak under the current plans of the government and under potential plans from the next government. The common denominator should be clear – government.

WORDS: Ryan O'Sullivan
IMAGE: Christiana Care's Photostream on flickr