Friday, July 26, 2019

I’M going to open this week’s column with a quote that I received via text message this week. “There was a time when I looked forward to reading ‘View from the Blue’ – its witty rambles, Deise nostalgia and even the odd dirty joke but now it makes me sad ad a little blue too. Bring back the innocent escapism and the five-minute timeout from the dreary reality.”

It’s a fair statement and one which I’m sure most of you agree with. When I started writing these columns, my head was filled with fond memories of the 80s, and in particular, the 90s. Because so many other people lived through those times, and those events with me, it created this common ground that we could all enjoy and appreciate. A nostalgia pool to swim in, if you will.

However, I was looking back so much that I started to lose sight of where I was and where I was going. I’m not trying to be profound, but people were stopping me in the street and asking if I was okay.

There are two main reasons why the nostalgia dried up. One – I had drained the well completely and I don’t think I had anything left to remember. When it got to the point that I was repeating myself about Sinnotts, Burgerland and the KK Discount Store, I knew it was time to move on.

Secondly, and most importantly, there are too many things happening in this country right now that I feel I can’t ignore.

I’ve found that when things are working fine and running smoothly, the mistakes, mishaps and controversies stick out like the proverbial sore thumb. Things haven’t been running smoothly in this country for a long time so it’s too easy for the bugs in the system – of which there are thousands – to go unnoticed.

Every single week, I sit down with the intention of writing a column to make you laugh and without fail something rushes angrily to the forefront of my mind. I wrote down two points this week and they’re both related to our ailing health system.

On Monday, University Hospital Waterford released a statement to the media asking people to avoid the Emergency Department if at all possible as it was “experiencing significant overcrowding”.

On the day in question, there were 25 people on trolleys in the Accident & Emergency department. The next day, that number went down to 13. You’d be entitled to wonder what on earth happened over the course of the day that they were able to clear off so many people from trolleys.

The answer to this is as simple as it is worryingly depressing. On such occasions as these, patients up in the wards who are due to have an elective procedure, are sent home and their beds are given to those who had been trying to sleep on a trolley up to that point.

These people were waiting for God knows how long for those beds and then, without warning, they’re sent home and told to expect a letter to reschedule.

Here’s the real kick in the nuts though. The next day (which also happens to be the day I’m writing this column – Wednesday, July 17), the trolley numbers were back up to 25. It’s like cleaning up after a toddler – a perpetual mess, which can only be fixed by hiring more staff.

I read a story recently about a man who was 96 hours on a trolley in Ireland’s health system. Let me tell you something that you probably already know: if you don’t speak up for yourself, you’ll be ignored and probably forgotten.

That’s not the doctors and nurse’s fault – they are dealing with incredibly stressful scenarios whereby the most sick have to be seen to first – as even sicker people are arriving by the minute. If you’re stuck in a corner on a trolley, quiet as a mouse, that’s probably where you’re going to stay.

Let me tell you…if I, or a member of my family was on a trolley for longer than 24 hours, I’d be out in that hospital tearing down the walls. I’m sorry nurses, you’ve got a job to do, but in this current healthcare system, it’s every man for himself.

Another problem within our current health service is that the right hand doesn’t know what the left is doing.

Simon Harris is our Minister for Health but it is becoming clearer by the day that he is a boss that has absolutely no idea what his employees are doing.

I’ve had cause to contact his office before about the modular cath lab. Minister Halligan had announced that it was coming, and that the HSE had said so. Minister Harris knew absolutely nothing about this.

I actually feel sorry for the guy. At aged 29 he was handed a poisoned chalice and told to keep on filling it until told otherwise.

The HSE are controlling our health service and it’s an organisation full of self-entitled civil service who think they know everything and the rest of us know nothing. They never admit to their mistakes and they can never answer a straight question. The amount of times that I have asked questions and been given answers to questions I never asked in reply is just too numerous to mention.

Every day, TDs ask Minister Simon Harris parliamentary questions, more often than not, he’ll come back with “I have asked the HSE to respond to you directly on this matter”, and that won’t always happen. I did a search of parliamentary questions online and there are 171 responses that include the line “I have asked the HSE to respond to you directly on this matter”.

One thing I have learned in the last five to six years is that the Government will keep on doing something if they feel that they are getting away with it.

The people of Ireland have to step up now and demand change. The HSE hasn’t worked for a long, long time. This business of taking nurses off wards and putting them into managerial roles that they’re not qualified for hasn’t worked and I think it’s time to start running our hospitals like businesses now.

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