The Irish health system is dysfunctional. There are long waits for hospital treatment. Social care for the elderly is expensive and difficult to access. There are terrible inequalities that result from a two-tier system. Medical card holders wait longer for operations that can relieve pain. There is a six-year gap between the life expectancy of professional workers and their unskilled counterparts.
This must change. We need a healthier and happier Ireland.
We need to create a National Health Service which guarantees universal access to treatment dispensed according to medical need and not the size of one’s wallet.
For a National Health Service:
- Reverse the cuts to health. Reopen hospital wards; hire nurses and support staff; reverse the downgrading of local health facilities; reach the target of 15,000 hospital beds; provide pay parity and restoration for health workers.
- Stop all support and tax breaks for private hospitals and healthcare facilities. Take the private system under public ownership and turn it into a National Health System. As this is being done, taper off tax breaks for private health insurance.
- Abolish the HSE and replace it with democratically elected Community Health Councils. Create an Independent Agency of Public Health Promotion that works with a responsible and accountable Department of Health to coordinate an effective and efficient health service.
- Create a network of community primary care centres and provide free GP care for all. Preventative care is the best way to reduce reliance on hospitals. The community care centres should act as hubs that provide GP services and basic diagnostics. They should be staffed with direct employees who will deal with both physical and mental health. Moves should be made to bring private GP service providers into the public system and integrate them into a system of community care centres.
- Align these primary care centres to a community-based system of social care. We are currently franchising out social care to large corporations like Comfort Keepers. They limit care to a stop-watch system whereby the carer must tag in for every minute. We want a return to a ‘home help’ system that is organised on a community co-operative basis.
- Guarantee access to healthcare within 18 weeks. Guarantee treatment in A+E within four hours. These are standards a modern 21st-century healthcare system should have.
- Create a publicly-funded online GP service. The state should provide an online service for people out of hours. This could also be used for follow-up advice when procedures are over.
- Develop the ambulance service and create more local on-call health services. Patients sometimes have to travel from Donegal to Galway to access chemotherapy. We need more local services where possible and an up-to-the-minute ambulance service where necessary.
- Establish a Public Pharmacy Agency and save money by breaking up the Big Pharma cartel. The State spends €2 billion a year on drugs, but the prices are higher than elsewhere. We should purchase drugs on the global market and shift towards more generic drugs.
- Abolish car parking charges in hospitals. It is stressful enough visiting the sick – we don’t need to impose an extra burden.
- Ban unsafe shifts for health workers. Doctors, nurses and other health workers are forced to work excessively long hours due to the crises in staffing. This puts patient safety at risk. We would ensure safe staffing levels and ban dangerous shift hours.
- End discrimination against foreign and non-EU doctors. Provide standardised medical training for all doctors, including those not trained in Ireland.
- Train consultants for public-only work. Establish alternative consultant training schemes in association with third-level institutions, to stem the shortage of certain specialties. Take control over the number of specialists trained.
- Provide extra support for transgender people.
- Provide proper supports for those with autism and those with dementia.
- Take mental health and loneliness seriously. Implement the progressive proposals from Vision for Change 2020. Increase the mental health budget. Move away from the reliance on drug treatment and towards the use of other therapies. Open 24-hour psychiatric care facilities. Help develop strong communities and a culture of volunteering.