Why don’t we vet Government Ministers?

When Leo Varadker made his sexual orientation public last week, a brief and transient thought flashed through the minds of his party colleagues, the media and the general public – does the fact that he is gay prevent him in any way from doing or holding his job as Minister for Health?

Thankfully, we now live in an Ireland that doesn’t discriminate politically between people based on the gender of people to whom they are attracted, and we have all moved on. But Mr Varadker’s announcement raised a few more fundamental questions. Continue reading »

Learning from Illness (11) – Journalist in the Way

I’ve been a journalist for most of my adult life and, as that implies, I’ve spent time wondering about the nature of media and truth, and whether or not there is any correlation between the two. We journalists don’t set out to distort reality, and some of us do a fine job in exposing truths that many would prefer to keep hidden, but the journalistic process is still something that can tend to obscure. Continue reading »

What now for general practice after the Budget?

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar

So the Budget has come and gone and there has been no major transfer of funds to primary care or general practice, or even any firm indication that it will happen any time soon. This is exactly as I predicted here, but for those who are struggling to make a living as general practitioners, it is not yet a case of ‘abandon hope all ye who enter general practice’.

Yes, the arguments have been well made, and the practical case for siphoning a little bit of the flood of money towards a cheaper, more effective primary care service has not been acted upon, so it might seem – on first impression – that Minister Varadkar is cut from much the same stalk as Minister Reilly. It might seem that he is as intent as Minister Reilly was in maintaining the status quo.

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Irish doctors head to Qatar

The World Cup may or may not end up in Qatar, but if it is, there will be a lot of Irish doctors on-hand to treat casualties

Doubling the number of trainee GPs will not solve the growing problem of a shortage of GPs in the country, according to the chair of the Irish Medical Organisation’s GP committee, but instead would be like ‘increasing the water pressure in a leaky pipe’.

Dr Ray Walley – who has a GP practice on Dublin’s northside said that having met the newly-appointed Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar, he had confidence that the Minister understood the problems facing general practice, but that increasing the number of GP trainees would not solve the looming shortage.

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GP’s unable to make a living in rural Ireland

There has been a Dr Casey working as a GP in Clifden since 1916. When the current Dr Casey’s father, Dr Michael Casey took over in the 1940s, he replaced another Dr Casey (no relation) and when he retired in 1974, his son, Dr John Casey took over.

But it’s unlikely that a Dr Casey will have been the local doctor in Clifden for a hundred years in 2016, despite the fact that Dr Casey’s son, (also John) has qualified as a GP and works in the practice with him.

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Reilly’s delays in health are just a cop-out

We are finally beginning to glimpse Minister James Reilly‘s vision for the health service but, unfortunately, it is a mirage. It is based on a new approach in politics, a constantly shifting vision of something good that moves further back every time we approach it.

Such is the case with Universal Health Care – launched last week but not available in practice for at least five years. It’s like the famous songline, “You’ll get pie in the sky when you die” – a promise that the long-term future will be different, if only you’re around to experience it.

We’ve been here before, of course. We’ve had the mental health strategy, the primary care strategy, the waiting list plan and a host of other really good things that, if they were implemented, would be excellent improvements. But, of course, they haven’t been implemented because ultimately, the dream is thought to be good enough for accumulating political capital while we’re waiting for the health service to miraculously change by itself. Continue reading »

Don’t hold your breath waiting for promised health initiatives

We have entered familiar territory with the controversies over Universal Health Insurance (UHI) and free GP care for the under-sixes. We are now, as we so often are, not on the edge of a brave new world, but in the land of political promises, where the fulfilment of a promise is the main aim – the introduction of some fairness, efficiency and quality in our health service is a mere by-product.

It all started so well. ‘Free’ GP care sounds like something good – who could be against something that would ease the weekly financial burden on families? Universal Health Insurance sounds wonderful too – the first real measure that attempts to provide healthcare on an equal basis to everyone, or so it would seem from the terminology.

The reality, of course, is much different.

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Why it’s crucial the State heeds warnings of GPs

The National Association of General Practitioners says that the primary care system is close to collapse.

Terence Cosgrave talks to three doctors about the choices and challenges they face and why one doesn’t regret his decision to emigrate.

CUTBACKS in general practice have reached a breaking point, with many GPs operating at a loss or breaking even. It means that many will have to reduce their service to the public or even leave Ireland to earn a reasonable income. The result could be a devastating blow to general practice in Ireland – a service that is universally acknowledged by the public as the one area of the health service that works.

Dr David Janes, for example, is a GP in rural Waterford near the town of Clonmel. He says that last month he worked for nothing, as by the time he had paid for all his overheads, there was no money left to pay himself a salary. With a wife and three children, that position is untenable.

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Politics, not patients, the key influence in choosing hospital site


Dr James Reilly has hardly been a model of impartiality in the past over healthcare locations so why should the National Children’s Hospital be any different?

You really have to wonder about the nature of democracy and democratic accountability when all you get to choose is the difference between a Fianna Fail and Fine Gael politician, and decisions that affect something so basic as children’s health — ie the location of the new children’s hospital — are effectively made by one minister with a dubious record in choosing healthcare locations.

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