In his time as Minister for Health, the former Taoiseach Brian Cowen once famously referred to the Department of Health…
Public health doctors were not a happy group towards the end of last year. The group were becoming increasingly frustrated at the continuing pay disparity between themselves and other specialists and their lack of consultant status. Not only that, but they were not even permitted to see the Review of Public Health Medicine, commissioned by the Department of Health and conducted by the consultancy firm Crowe, regarding the future of the specialty.
As usual, the HSE published its service plan just when most people were turning their attention away from the news towards the reprieve of the Christmas period. Although the completion of the plan has to abide by certain timelines, it is almost as if the Executive doesn’t want a detailed and forensic examination of its annual mission statement.
In a year dominated by women’s health issues, it is fitting that this last Medical Independent of 2018 contains an interview with the first female Chair of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. Dr Cliona Murphy speaks about the central role doctors played in the referendum campaign to repeal the Eighth Amendment and her own decision to advocate for a ‘yes’ vote. She said many medical professionals felt it was their duty to give a voice to “those women who would not be strong enough to stand up and give their personal stories”.
HIQA recently published the results of the second National Patient Experience Survey, the largest survey of its kind in Ireland. According to the survey, the majority of patients (84 per cent) said they had a ‘good’ or a ‘very good’ overall experience in hospital in May 2018. Although there were negative findings — for instance, 40 per cent of respondents said they did not have enough time to discuss their care and treatment with a doctor, while 34 per cent said that they were not adequately informed about ‘danger signals’ to watch out for when they went home — the survey results, in general, paint a more positive picture of the health service than is usually portrayed in the media.
The recent revelations of structural problems in school buildings bring to mind one of the best Irish novels of modern times, Mike McCormack’s Solar Bones. Near the end of the novel, the lead character, Marcus Conway, a civil engineer with the local council, refuses to sign-off on the construction of a new school due to concerns about the foundations. This brings Marcus into conflict with a local councillor and the building contractor, who end up circumventing him and building the school anyway. The parallel between the real-world developments and the story is a testament to McCormack’s insight, almost literally, into the building blocks of Irish society.
Remember January 2015? That month, the annual emergency department (ED) crisis hit hospitals harder than usual. The number of patients on trolleys in hospitals across Ireland reached a record number of 601 on 6 January (an unwanted record that has since been broken). Patients and healthcare staff looked to the HSE and the Minister for Health for a solution to the crisis. But the Minister at the time, Leo Varadkar, was nowhere to be found. Mr Varadkar had escaped the harshness of the Irish winter and was on a sun holiday in Miami.