Monday, April 03, 2006

Labour On Health

Now despite the amount of rhetoric that dominated the Labour conference there was some solid proposals. It seems the coalition partners have decided to spilt the election issues between them. Fine Gael seems to leading the way on crime figures while Labour seems to be leading the way on Health. I wonder is this a way of the coalition partners coming to a consensus on how to run the country. With each party having there own “patch”. Anyway what had Labour to say on Health.

Like all parties Labour have sound bite friendly plan this time it is a 5 point plan. Firstly they call for more beds. The fact the A&E crisis evolves mainly people not having beds it seems that the obvious solution is to have more beds. However much of the crisis is due to poor management of resources not lack of beds. As St Luke’s Hospital in Kilkenny (Sunday Tribune Free Subs Required) shows more beds is not necessarily the problem. If money is diverted from the Health budget to building beds that are not needed that is wrong. However it is hardly likely that the solution can be formed solely without providing more beds.

Second they call for hospitals to have higher hygine standards. All I can say to that is “word”! But Labour are not the first ones to mention this Mary Harney said “Meat factories are cleaner than some of our hospitals” back in June. The questions is of course what has she done about it and what will Labour do about it.

Third they will keep as much healthcare as local as possible. Again the example of St Luke’s is precisely this. A&E is being blocked up by many people who don’t need it who’s local GP could easily deal with them. But with figures recently showing that there has been a slow uptake in GP only cards. Seems to suggest much of the problem is getting people to actually go to the doctor instead of A&E. Currently there is about 11,000 people with GP only cards. Much of the deterrent for visiting the GP is the cost involved this needs to be addressed. By either increased competition (more doctors) in the long term or by government support(grants, medical cards etc) or both. But Labour’s call to “modernise the services offered by family doctors” while in my opinion a small portion of the problem is none the less needed.

Fourthly they would reverse Mary Harney’s tax breaks for private hospital developments. Now this is back to what I said in this post about ideologies. Labour are approaching from an ideological point of view. The end result of the health service should be the maximum return for the minimum spend. The only reason that the tax breaks should be dropped is if they will not lead to lives being saved. I don’t think this would be the case. True they are far from the solution and will be to the benefit for the rich. But if they free up bed’s and other resources in the public hospitals and allow the governments health budget to be spent on the poorest in society then it can be nothing but a good thing. The private sector is not to be feared or seen as the solution they must be used where applicable and where they will benefit the nation.

“Fifthly, we will reform the way hospitals work, so that money follows the patient, and doctors and hospitals are paid in line with the treatment they provide for patients.” Makes perfect sense to me.

Other plans for Health were announced by Labour Deputy Leader Liz McManus. They include Targeted measures to improve lifestyles ie obesity, alcohol, exercise, smoking and screenings. Which ties in nicely with Enda Kenny’s National Conference Speech where he called for a national screening programming with free regular health checks for men and women. Also Better management within our hospitals. We spend more on our health service then Britain. Yet it is not a patch on the NHS. She also called for an end to the two-tier system. I have to disagree. I don’t think the two-tier system should be got rid for the sake of it. Only if it is detrimental to the health service now I am no expert on the health service but I would imagine that the money from private clients keeps many hospitals balance sheets in the black. The two-tier system should only be removed if it is needed and cause no ill effects to the system. Other points include Greater priority to be given to improving mental health services.

She also calls for more community beds. This is a much needed thing (if I have the right definition). Many people in the health service are taking up acute beds that are needed by others more urgently. Many of these people don’t need these beds at all. If there was adequate step down beds in the system. Then much of the delays in the system would be solved as space would be used efficiently.

However Labour miss out on what is the biggest factor. Consultants in Ireland consultants are among the highest paid in Europe and hold sway over the whole system and we often hear stories how they focus on their private patients to the determinate to their public patients. This needs to be dealt with. Pat said “no interest group has the right to veto changes which are necessary for the public good” will they act on it and take on the interest group with the most power? Another thing that needs to be done is to provide more doctors. There is demand in the system, the CAO points show that there is demand for places. However places need to be expanded and increased. UL’s Graduate Entry Medical School needs to be supported and perhaps Maynoth and Waterford IT should also gain medical schools.

There is much wrong with the Health service and no easy solutions. Labour have set out there stall. While there ideas might be good they are just words, actions are more important. Maybe Labour’s campaign would be better if instead of focusing on idea’s they simply used the slogan.

Sure We Can’t Fuck it Up Any Worse

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