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What’s another year?

Looking back on 2017, this saying pretty much sums up the Irish health system.

The year began with 612 patients on hospital trolleys, a new re­cord, following on from a similar one two years before (601), when we were told hitting 600+ trolleys would never happen again…. Will we breach this number again in the New Year?

Hospital waiting lists continued to climb to never-ending record levels throughout 2017 and currently stand at just under 685,000 patients waiting for an inpatient or outpatient procedure across the country. This is absolutely scandalous and surely should be treated with the same dedication as Brexit, or any other national crisis by the Government?

We are supposed to be grateful, however, that there have been small reductions in surgery waiting lists compared to last year and that there will be a bigger NTPF ‘treatment-buying’ budget in 2018, not to mention the work of the ‘validation’ exercises trimming pa­tients, often unfairly, off lists. Capacity, both beds and staff, are of course the key issue here, and until they are resolved with sustain­able long-term solutions, our waiting list debacle will continue un­abated in 2018.

However, with consultant, GP, and nursing posts failing to at­tract interested candidates it is hard to see how things will improve without taking a more proactive approach to improving their terms and conditions.

As reported in the last issue, the GMS contract negotiations are going nowhere fast, with another year ending with very little pro­gress. Continued Government giveaways of more medical and GP visit cards, while for worthy groups, with little thought to how they will impact overburdened GP services, is not helping things.

While spin about minor achievements and lack of public acknowl­edgement of the huge issues facing our health system can be tire­some, that is not to say that positive things do not happen every day in our health service, with much welcome progress on new major healthcare facilities, new clinical care programmes, and the funding of new life-saving therapies and technology this year. Many ‘good news’ health service stories happened in 2017, as can be read in our review of the year on page 12.

It was also a notable year for women involved in Irish medicine. Prof Mary Horgan became the first woman President of the RCPI in its 363-year history, while a new network for female doctors working in gynaecology and obstetrics, GOWN, was recently established, with moves currently afoot to develop a wider network for women in med­icine in Ireland, called WIMIN.

Last week the 2017 Health Excellence Awards took place, which highlighted the many achievements happening across a range of staff groups and teams, services and locations. Such awards celebrate success and promote shared learning for the benefit of patients and staff and there was no shortage of wor­thy entries.

Every day, dedicated health staff in every corner of the country, be it in single-handed GP surgeries, in remote rural areas or de­prived urban areas, in small local hospitals and large tertiary hos­pitals, deliver the best care they can to their patients. Our hard­working and dedicated staff, be they medical, nursing, pharmacy and allied health professional colleagues and administration staff, are the lifeblood of our health service and deserve to be celebrated and supported.

There is much to appreciate, to build on, to improve and to achieve as we look to 2018.

Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year from the Medical In­dependent to all our contributors and readers. Spare a thought and some kindness for all health staff who will be working over the fes­tive period.

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