Two Irelands: the case of Roscommon Hospital

Date:

THERE ARE TWO IRELANDS – reality for people like you and me; fantasy for the rich and their political servants.

Frank Feighan lives in fantasy Ireland. He was elected TD for Roscommon/South Leitrim in 2011 on the basis of a pledge not to downgrade Roscommon Hospital. Enda Kenny even made a speech in Roscommon town promising to keep the hospital at its current capacity [1]. Once elected, Feighan and Fine Gael broke their promises in order to support the global financial system and to open up Ireland’s welfare services to retrenchment and privatisation. Roscommon County Hospital was downgraded in 2011, losing its 24-hour accident and emergency service. Local people reacted angrily to this betrayal, occupying the hospital for a number of days, organising local demonstrations in the town and a national demonstration outside the Dáil. Neighbours generally shunned Feighan in his constituency, painting slogans like ‘traitor’ on bales of hay on the roads leading to his home.
 

Today, a deeply unpopular Feighan announced that he will not be contesting the next election. In a very sympathetic interview with the Independent today he lamented: "The problem is that the person who uses political influence in a logical way is often not heard. But he or she who shouts loudest and negatively is more likely to get a hearing. That is disappointing" [2]. There have been serious consequences as a result of Fine Gael TDs acting “in a logical way”.

Meanwhile, in reality Ireland, an elderly cancer patient whose lungs collapsed was forced to wait three hours and 40 minutes for an ambulance [3]. James Wood, 68, was at home in Boyle, Co Roscommon, when both his lungs collapsed and his family GP rang for an ambulance. Despite the chronic pain he was in, it took over three and a half hours for paramedics to arrive. There was no ambulance available to come from Carrick-on-Shannon in Co Leitrim, Roscommon town, or from Ballinasloe or Tuam in neighbouring Galway. In the end, an ambulance came from Sligo, more than 50km away. Woods survived but if he had been a cardiac patient, it is likely that he would have died.

This case, once again, illustrates the self-serving fantasy believed in and sustained by those in power. At the time of Roscommon Hospital’s downgrading in 2011, the Fine Gael-Labour government assured people that the ambulance service would be upgraded. Instead, the ambulance service remains underfunded and overstretched, particularly for those sparsely populated areas around Connaught that experience the highest waiting times for ambulance services.

There are then two Irelands – one is the fantasy Ireland of the powerful and the other is our reality where hospitals are more important than banks, and the needs of ordinary people more important than money. Which side are you on?

[1] See the pledge given by James Reilly in 2011 at http://www.roscommonhospital.com/
[2] The 'legend of hospital downgrade' influences Feighan's decision to quit, Independent, 14 July, 2015
[3] Full article ‘Cancer patient left waiting THREE HOURS for ambulance’ reported in the Irish Mirror, 17 June 2015.

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