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It is fair to say that this good news doesn’t get enough attention in the media. It is important, therefore, to receive press releases and newsletters and social media updates on the positive things that are happening in our health services and to highlight the dedication and hard work of health staff in all types of healthcare services.
However, this does not mean that we should ignore the negative aspects and failings in our health service, of which there are many. Not that you would think there were any if you look at the HSE’s busy website or follow its senior managers on Twitter. Nope, all is great with our health services.
Sure a total of €14.6 billion has been secured for the health budget next year, an increase of €977 million on this year’s figure, overspending is under control and the recent TV series Keeping Ireland Alive showed what great care patients within our services receive. No mention, however, of emergency department issues, waiting lists, disgruntled health staff or delays in various projects.
Our public hospital waiting lists are now the worst they have ever been; well over 530,000 people are waiting for an inpatient or outpatient appointment, with no extra money this year to tackle the issue and more cancelled procedures likely as traditional winter pressure hits.
Some money has been allocated next year to the NTPF to outsource appointments but, as has been pointed out by many medical representatives, such measures fail to address the root causes of the problems, which include inadequate acute and ICU bed capacity and escalating staff recruitment issues.
We have had an exceptionally bad summer in our emergency departments and while some recent positive figures have been quoted, there is consensus among healthcare staff that it is going to be a tough winter and that the HSE’s Winter Initiative does not contain enough resources to address the problem.
NCHDs and consultants, meanwhile, have taken the HSE to court to force payment of withheld salary and allowance payments, while GPs feel short-changed by the 2017 budget, are confused over the new childhood vaccination schedule, and frustrated by the delays in recommencing the GMS contract talks. Not to mention planned industrial action by ambulance staff and nurses.
So all is far from rosy in our health services, yet there is mainly silence from those in charge about the seriousness of the many issues at hand and what is being done to address them. Instead, there is a never ending stream of positive tweets and news.
To be fair to Minister for Health Simon Harris, he is continuing to visit hospitals and other healthcare settings and attend a huge array of events where he is listening to and acknowledging the concerns of healthcare staff, as well as answering questions about what he plans to do to address these problems. However, it is time that those in direct charge of HSE services also came out and acknowledged that our health services are having a hard time of it and outline what they plan to do about it.