Private v public health service
Sir, – So. The unthinkable happens. A government minister, Róisín Shortall resigns. A rare event in Irish political life. Much of the current discussion, however, is focused on the manner in which Minister for Health James Reilly prioritised two primary health care centres in his own constituency. But there is a far more serious issue at play.
Shortall claims that Dr Reilly is continuing former minister Mary Harney’s agenda of privatising Irish medicine, American style. According to Ms Shortall this week, “James Reilly is . . . more about a business model than a service that puts patients at its core . . . I believe he (is) going . . . down the whole privatisation, American-style route”.
Irish hospital consultants are the latest target in the Minister’s path to the destruction of public medicine as we know it in Ireland. Hospital consultants’ professional autonomy is being eroded and their status undermined by new low-paid and punitive – by international medical standards – contracts. This will drive highly qualified hospital consultants out of the Irish public system.
The private system will grow and prosper. Dr Reilly, himself a practitioner and leading light within the private medical system will have succeeded in wresting the brightest and best from the public system.
Not everyone reading this letter can afford private health insurance. Everyone however, at some point, will require medical treatment at a time of crisis in their lives. Irish people need to ask themselves what kind of doctor they want to be treated by. An autonomous consultant qualified to international standards – or a demoralised, under-qualified practitioner, with little clinical independence who must answer to a HSE manager.
No one in Ireland, save Dr Reilly it would seem, wants an American-style medical system. It is time to replace James Reilly and re-assert medical leadership within the Irish public system. – Yours, etc,