A new service for a New Year is not the best of timing

Dr Pat Harrold | 25 Oct 2018 | 0 Comment(s)

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The Minister of Health will have his work cut out ensuring a fit-for-purpose abortion service will be up and running by the beginning of 2019, according to Dr Pat Harrold

The new abortion service is due to be ready to go in primary care by 1 January 2019, says Minister for Health Simon Harris. At the time of writing, this is about as likely as Marty Whelan and Marty Morrissey beating the O’Donovan brothers in a double sculls race, but it begs the question: Why 1 January and why primary care?

The first of January is traditionally the worst day to start anything in the Irish medical calendar.

Lonely senior house officers, who had spent New Year’s Eve in a strange town before starting their new jobs in the morning, would face into work on a bank holiday. There would be lots to do after a long break and nobody would know what was going on. It makes you wonder if Simon Harris is on speaking terms with Leo, Michael Harty, James Reilly or indeed any doctor or healthcare professional at all.

Of course, Simon may be ready to go, but if he wants a first-world, modern service in which both woman and doctor are safe, he should perhaps take his time. I know he has a head of steam built-up from all that cheering in Dublin Castle, but as the late Paddy Hillery used to say: “You don’t rush at a free and score a point; you walk up and score a goal.”

He seems determined to put the service in primary care, presumably to do it on the cheap. I know the claim is that the service should not be based  in urban centres, as it will put the rural people at a disadvantage.

To claim this, after years of systematic destruction of the rural way of life, shows breathtaking cheek.

The family planning centres seem to have been completely bypassed, maybe because the HSE supposes that the GPs will just take it on and keep going.

It is another straw on a camel’s back that is well broken, and the wonder is how the camel is still plodding along.

The proposed 24-hour helpline will probably take up most of the funding, with glossy hand-outs and posters of smiling telephone advisers in Irish and English festooned throughout the health service.

I can’t really see why it should run all night. Surely even the most desperate could look up what is available online and ring in the morning, but I suppose an around-the-clock service fits the Minster’s chutzpah.

There are three visits planned and there is a lot to do; a lot of paperwork and forms and probably an ultrasound. Now,while it is simple enough to date a foetus, the medical insurance companies are loath to insure GPs to have ultrasounds at all. An ultrasonographer could do it and send the image to a radiologist, who could report back by encrypted email. Not too many rural practitioners have ultrasonographers sitting quietly in their  offices. They are lucky to have  a cleaner these days.

I suppose in five years’ time it will all have settled down. Some will provide the service and some will not, like coils or joint injections.

But there is the matter of the conscientious objector. A number of doctors, of as yet unknown quantity, will not even tell the woman where she can go, presumably because if they do, they will roast in hell for all eternity. If you think that a loving God will require you to face a terrified teenager, who you’ve known since childhood, to whom you gave her vaccines and saw through childhood illnesses, who looks up to you and trusts you, and tell her to her tear-stained face that not only will you not help her, but you will not even tell her where to get help and you, because of your beliefs, have determined that she should stay pregnant, then say your prayers well, because He may be equally as hard on you some day.

Many Irish pro-lifers still support Trump, even despite his deplorable sexual, financial and moral past, because he is seen as ‘anti-abortion’. Once the child is out of the womb, she can be denied healthcare, locked in a cage, shot at in the classroom and racially attacked with the blessing of the President.

Minister Harris has a lot to do with protocols, unions, insurance companies and individual conscience, and I wish him well. But he would want to get it right. The first of January was always the worst day of the year for mistakes.

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