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The political road

Often, the road to politics is paved with good intentions — yet it is full of unexpected potholes and detours. Doctors who have entered politics would surely agree.

In General Election 2016, a number of doctors have put their names forward in a bid to improve health services for their communities.

For Clare GP Dr Michael Harty (Independent) and Mayo GP Dr Jerry Cowley (Independent), the cuts to rural practice over recent years drove their decision.

Indeed, the FEMPI measures, erosion of rural practice allowances and scrapping of distance codes have shaped a consistent message from rural GPs: Their practice is endangered, and ultimately too, the health of their communities.

The Government has signalled its intention to progress such
issues, but it has been a long
time coming.

What form such measures may take, and indeed who will control the purse strings, remains to
be seen.

Meanwhile, GP Dr Seamus McMenamin is running as a Green Party candidate in Meath. A key part of his campaign is opposition to further cuts at Our Lady’s Hospital, Navan.

Dr McMenamin recently told the Medical Independent that GPs were well placed to contest seats in the General Election, due to their trusted place in local communities, knowledge of key issues and experience in dealing with public and private institutions.

In 2014, Dr Cowley, who of course served as an Independent TD, spoke of entering politics “at your peril”.

He said the first item on the agenda of many politicians was their re-election.

 “I was surprised. I went into the Dáil when I was elected — and the first thing anyone was talking about was ‘Lads, how are we going to get back here again?’ It is as true as God… ‘Jaysus lads, we pulled it off this time — how are we going to do it again?’”

Then again, he had said, you only had one shot at life and doctors in politics had a huge contribution to make. A critical mass of doctors could make a difference.

Whether inside or outside politics, let’s hope doctors make their voices heard.

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