Varad­kar’s at­tack on Christ­mas leave was di­rected at the wrong peo­ple

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - OPINION -

TAOISEACH Leo Varad­kar’s re­cent com­ments on Christ­mas hol­i­days for med­i­cal staff leave a sour taste in mouth. Now, to be fair to Mr Varad­kar – a qual­i­fied doc­tor and for­mer Health Min­is­ter whose part­ner is also a doc­tor – he knows more than most about Ire­land’s health ser­vice and its many no­to­ri­ous de­fi­cien­cies.

That said, in ef­fec­tively can­celling Christ­mas for the thou­sands of hard work­ing front line staff, who work lu­di­crously long hours to keep the creak­ing sys­tem go­ing, it’s hard not to feel that the Taoiseach is lay­ing the blame at the wrong door.

There can be lit­tle dis­pute about Mr Varad­kar’s ar­gu­ment that the health ser­vice – like any pri­vate busi­ness, a shop for ex­am­ple – should be fully staffed at peak times.

Christ­mas, and re­ally win­ter in gen­eral, is the busi­est pe­riod of the en­tire year in our hospi­tals with the dis­mal weather; flu epi­demics and other win­ter ail­ments pil­ing pres­sure on hospi­tals’ al­ready stretched re­sources.

Of course, it makes sense that all hands are on deck and that all back up ser­vices – like Ra­dio­g­ra­phy or blood test­ing labs – are up and run­ning as nor­mal.

How­ever, Mr Varad­kar’s con­tention that in many cases vi­tal sup­port staff usu­ally take Christ­mas off, ap­pears to be se­ri­ously wide of the mark.

Since he made his com­ments scores of the ex­pert med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als that run the sup­port ser­vices and labs in hospi­tals right across the coun­try have pointed out that they usu­ally have lit­tle or no time off over the hol­i­day pe­riod and are, in fact, nor­mally much busier than usual.

These peo­ple – along with the doc­tors and nurses on the wards and the countless ded­i­cated men and women in the gar­daí and emer­gency ser­vices – don’t get to en­joy Christ­mas the way the rest of us do. While we have our feet up af­ter tuck­ing in to our turkey din­ner and open­ing our presents, they are work­ing on the wards; pa­trolling the streets; putting out fires or sav­ing lives on the seas.

They barely see their loved ones. They do it all to keep the rest of us safe and they don’t com­plain. If any­one de­serves a hol­i­day it is them but un­for­tu­nately, be­cause of the vo­ca­tions they chose, they rarely ever get one.

Ire­land’s health ser­vice has been dys­func­tional for as long as any of us can re­mem­ber. It is a vast, seem­ingly bot­tom­less, money pit that places a mas­sive drain on the tax-payer with few ob­vi­ous re­sults.

None of that is the fault of the front line staff who work ev­ery hour God sends with lit­tle sign of ap­pre­ci­a­tion from any of the peo­ple in charge.

As is the case with so many Gov­ern­ment depart­ments, the mantra in the Ir­ish health ser­vice is to con­stantly strive to do more and more with less and less.

Can­celling hol­i­day leave for doc­tors and nurses won’t fix the en­demic prob­lems in the health ser­vice. Hir­ing more nurses and fir­ing a few man­agers just might. Fail­ing that, just say­ing thanks for all the hard work would be a start.

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