Don’t tin­ker with HSE: just tear it down

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - COMMENT -

WE ALL are fa­mil­iar with the names of Brigid McCole, Susie Long, Vicky Phe­lan, Róisín Mol­loy and Re­becca O’Mal­ley. These names are syn­ony­mous with tragedy, tied in­ex­tri­ca­bly by a se­ries of cat­a­strophic fail­ings in our health ser­vice.

The pat­tern is the same. First, their con­cerns are dis­missed. More of­ten than not, they are dragged into court to re­ceive jus­tice and recog­ni­tion that would have cost far less – in fi­nan­cial terms to the HSE, and in emo­tional terms to the women – if any­one had stood up and said, yes, we made a mis­take, and we will en­deav­our to do every­thing we can to atone for it and en­sure it never hap­pens to any­one else.

More of­ten than not, the women even have to fight just for full dis­clo­sure of the facts, as an at­tempt to pro­tect in­sti­tu­tions takes prece­dence over nat­u­ral jus­tice.

This all is al­lowed to hap­pen be­cause of the politi­ci­sa­tion of the HSE. Not only is it con­ve­nient for se­nior politi­cians to have a sep­a­rate en­tity to blame when things go very badly wrong, but the HSE also of­ten has its hands tied when it be­comes a foot­ball in lo­cal pol­i­tics. At­tempts to es­tab­lish re­gional cen­tres of ex­cel­lence have been un­der­mined by politi­cians whose plat­forms amount to lit­tle more than keep­ing the lo­cal hospi­tal or A&E open, even when bet­ter care could be pro­vided cen­trally.

It also means that at the likes of the Oireach­tas Pub­lic Ac­counts Com­mit­tee, TDs and sen­a­tors get to grand­stand when they have scant knowl­edge of the is­sues. At the com­mit­tee this week, ex-HSE boss Tony O’Brien was grilled by peo­ple with lit­tle or no med­i­cal ex­per­tise, and was asked the same ques­tions sev­eral times.

While the fo­cus of the Cer­vi­calCheck scan­dal must re­main for now on the women af­fected, we can’t lose sight of the fact that there was a cover-up. Why do agents and in­sti­tu­tions of state pri­ori­tise pro­tect­ing the or­gan­i­sa­tion over the needs and rights of the cit­i­zen?

Too of­ten, the en­tire frame­work of the HSE is at the whim of who­ever is health min­is­ter. Dr James Reilly promised uni­ver­sal health care, un­til it was deemed to be too ex­pen­sive to im­ple­ment. He re­moved the in­de­pen­dent board of the HSE, a board cur­rent health min­is­ter Si­mon Har­ris now wants to res­ur­rect.

We must get off this self-in­dul­gent merry-go-round and im­me­di­ately make fixes, such as ac­cel­er­at­ing the in­tro­duc­tion of HPV screen­ing on top of the ex­ist­ing smear test pro­gramme, af­ter ex­am­in­ing other coun­tries’ ap­proaches to im­ple­ment best in­ter­na­tional prac­tice.

Piece­meal tin­ker­ing with in­di­vid­ual as­pects of the ser­vices pro­vided un­der the HSE is not enough, and it does not ab­ro­gate the need for rad­i­cal change.

As a young coun­try, we had a real chance to build it on prin­ci­ples of com­mu­nity, of car­ing and of com­pas­sion, with the cit­i­zen at the cen­tre. In­stead, we got sucked down the rab­bit hole of self-preser­va­tion and the pro­tec­tion of the in­sti­tu­tions of state ahead of those they were meant to serve.

That must stop, and for it to stop, here is a good start. Wouldn’t it be a fit­ting trib­ute if the next gov­ern­ment were elected on a plat­form that promised to tear down the ir­repara­bly bro­ken HSE and give us a health ser­vice we de­serve?

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.