We all know that the health service is in a terrible state. Elderly patients on trolleys and in chairs for days while they wait for a bed. Operations cancelled, stressed staff, people having to wait years just to see a consultant.

Why? Ireland is now a wealthy country, there is a lot of cash out there. But, as long as the rich and the politicians have their private hospitals, like the Blackrock Clinic and the Bon Secours in Cork, why should they care about what happens to the rest of us?

 If you have private health insurance (or a huge bank balance) you can get treated immediately, and in top-of-the-range facilities. It's not how much you are suffering, just how much cash you have that gets you a bed.

The government continues to give tax breaks and incentives to private hospitals because they are ideologically committed to privatisation - to them profits are more important than healing the sick. Anarchists stand for a society where people's needs always come first and where the management of the health service would be in the hands of the real experts - the nursing and non-nursing staff who keep everything running. As part of the struggle for that sort of society we support the communities opposing cutbacks and closures.

We also support the nurses' campaign of industrial action for better pay and shorter hours. Going on strike is rarely an easy decision, for workers like nurses it is particularly difficult. So you can imagine how badly treated they feel when the vote was 96% in favour of strike in the INO and 97% in the PNA.

Their claim is for parity with other health workers, such as those in 'social care' grades. Those workers already have a 35 hour week and earn up to €3,000 more than a nurse or midwife. A victory by nurses would be great for all working people. It would show that the government can be beaten, it would give increased confidence to those fighting for a better public health service, and it would show that "social partnership" is not our only option.

This article is from Workers Solidarity No96, March April 2007

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