HSE hospital figures; Medical Cards; HSE threatening legal action

Eamonn Farrell - Photocall Ireland

[Speaking in the Seanad during Order of Business]

I propose an amendment to the Order of Business to ask the Minister for Health to attend the House today to address the issues that arose with respect to the letter by the Irish emergency medicine trainees that courageously highlighted some glaring deficiencies and some misperceptions that are being advanced, one hopes inaccurately, by the authorities with respect to the number of patients on trolleys, the effect it has on the quality of their care and the downstream effect it has on those waiting for other aspects of care.

It must be stated that while these colleagues have been repeatedly referred to in the media as senior colleagues, they are trainees. They are junior doctors. They are non-consultant hospital doctors who have no security in their jobs, can be fired and can last as long as the next contract and disappear. For that reason, particular tribute must be paid to their courage and bravery in blowing the whistle on this. They are not the most invulnerable section of the Irish health system and as somebody who has been very critical of people who have been afraid to point out deficiencies and blow whistles, I express my admiration for them. I believe the problem is larger than the one to which they specifically referred. Mere adherence to HIQA practices within emergency rooms will not fix the problem.

If the Minister comes to the House, I would also like to draw his attention to something that troubles me greatly. There has been genuine difference of opinion and discussion among sincere people who can take different positions with respect to what has been happening with medical cards over the past year. Some would suggest it is all a question of tightening up probity while others would suggest something far more deliberate is happening with the tightening up of what were previously described as discretionary medical cards whose very existence is apparently being questioned by the authorities.

In this regard, I was very troubled to receive correspondence from Dr. Ruairi Hanley, a respected GP and medical journalist, who wrote in a national newspaper … and .. has asked me to bring up the issue. I will not be criticising anybody by name. I am supporting Dr. Hanley who pointed out that when he wrote an article in which he bluntly stated that he believed the HSE was terrifying people with the threat of the denial of their medical cards, he received a letter from a member of the communications staff of the HSE accusing him of defaming the HSE and threatening to seek appropriate redress in the absence of a retraction of the article. It is entirely inappropriate that an organ of the State that should be answerable as part of a democracy, not only to these Houses and citizenry but through its journalistic reporters, should be able to threaten a journalist for having a difference of opinion from it. The question must be asked as to why the HSE has a director of communications at the same time as 30, 40 and 50 people are lying on hospital trolleys. Please tell me that this is an inappropriate allocation of resources.

I would like to formally propose an amendment to the Order of Business today to ask the Minister for Health to come to the House specifically to discuss the issue of emergency rooms and waiting times.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: