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Winter of discontent

In keeping with his predecessors, Minister Varadkar is now turning his attention to the grotesque spectacle EDs have been allowed to become.

“The current situation with emergency department overcrowding can’t go on,” he said in a statement earlier this month.

“I acknowledge the difficulties which the current surge in activity is causing for patients, their families and the staff who are doing their utmost to provide safe, quality care in very challenging circumstances.”

On the same day outside the gates of the Dáil, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) co-ordinated a protest about the number of patients on trolleys, the latest in a series of such events to highlight this enormous patient safety issue. The INMO and the Irish Association of Emergency Medicine deserve huge credit for their consistent and eloquent condemnation of overcrowding.

While funding is not the only cause, the cuts to health, and particularly the closure of beds, cannot have helped. Every member of the last number of Governments must take some blame for this. Managerial speak about ‘low-hanging fruit’ and ‘cost-saving initiatives’ might, to some, sound impressive, but you cannot run a modern health service with them.

It is everyone’s hope that Minister Varadkar and the Taskforce will be successful. However, with many critical of the lack of a GP representative in the Taskforce’s membership, it is hardly the best possible start to the year.

A level playing field

Last weekend saw the Overseas Medics of Ireland meet in Dublin. Doctors have come from all over the world to study and work in Ireland, indeed this is something that the HSE and the State have encouraged. However, have we treated these people, on whom much of the health service depends, well? No, overwhelmingly no. And it seems that they are no longer prepared to put up with it.

Their issues centre around things that every doctor desires: Access to training and a secure future in this country. As Dr Shakya Bhattacharjee, Member of the Organising Committee, told the Medical Independent recently: “We want a level playing field so that competent people are not denied. We are not saying that the incompetent people should be squeezed-in or fitted-in to the Irish medical system — but competent people should have full access to training posts and all of these things.”

Surely this is a request that the State can grant?

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