Launch of Campaign for a Decent Public Health Service


Roughly 300 people turned up to the launch of the 'Campaign for a Decent Public Health Service' on the evening of the 11th February in Liberty Hall. The public meeting was organised by the Dublin Council of Trade Unions and the campaign hopes to bring together health workers and their trade unions, patient groups, hospital campaigners, the trade union movement in general and the general public to demand a civilised health service.

Moving contributions were provided by Conor MacLiam (the husband of Susie Long), Janette Byrne (from Patients Together) and other victims of the running down of the public health service. The perspective of health workers was provided by addresses from representatives from SIPTU, IMPACT, the INO and the IMO. There existed a general consensus that the road to privatisation of the health system must be stopped and that a campaign with concrete demands for a properly funded universal public health system, that is free at the point of access, is the way forward.

In building this campaign it’s important that we realise that the problems in the health service do not arise as a result of incompetence or poor planning but are a direct result of the right-wing economic agenda of the current government which very clearly places the right to make profit before the health needs of ordinary people. This is a political agenda which sees ‘private good, public bad’ and which – through lack of investment and deliberate running down of services – has rendered the public health system incapable of meeting the needs of those who need to use it. All of this is so that taxes on wealth can be kept extremely low and their friends in the private health system can make even more money than before.

For too long campaigns around the health system have been locally based, attempting to save regional services. The problems in the health service affect working people throughout the country, so a campaign for health reform must be carried out nationwide.

And it is only organised workers, both in trade unions and in local communities, that can win such a campaign. No party in government has tackled this issue since the creation of the state. No elected independent politician has made much of a difference. And even if they had been willing, they couldn’t have. The powerful vested interests, including the health insurance companies, the consultants, the HSE bureaucracy, the royal colleges and medical bodies, have opposed and will oppose at all costs the creation of an equitable and accessible system for all.

And let’s not be fooled to think such a system will be granted through social partnership. An active health campaign of workers should not be frittered away by the union bureaucracy at the “bargaining table” of national agreements. The interests of the rich and powerful will not willingly get rid of our apartheid health system. Workers should be ready to be patient in building a strong, cohesive movement.

The next step in building the campaign will be a national demonstration to take place on 29th March at 3pm. If you have been a victim of the underfunded public health system or you know someone who has, come out and express your anger on 29th March.