Archbishop of Dublin in scathing criticism of health crisis

Diarmuid Martin says culture of care will never flourish in a climate of bureaucracy

The crisis in our health service has been described as “one of the darkest shadows” hanging over Irish society by the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin. “A culture of care will never flourish in a climate of bureaucracy,” he said.

Speaking at a weekend conference in Dublin to mark World Day of the Sick, he said "we are all aware in Ireland today of the real crisis that affects our healthcare system".

“Day after day we learn of failures, of systems which are not responding to needs, of a two-tier system whose negative effects disproportionately strike the poor, the isolated and the elderly.

“The crisis of our healthcare system is probably one of the darkest shadows that hangs over the model of society which is dominant today in our wealthy Ireland. Sadly, it is a system which seems to be trapped within tentacles of its own making, with attempts to address one problem only revealing another and rendering a definitive solution ever more distant.”



A culture of care would “never flourish in a climate of bureaucracy”, he said. “We need a strong voluntary sector, a civil society which involves people in a particular way in identifying needs and encouraging a real notion of care, but it must also be attentive to the governance of that sector.”

Healthcare was “not about creating a passive environment”, he said. “It means not leaving everything to anonymous systems.”

Where workers in the health service were concerned, what was not said “often enough and with sufficient vigour is the fact that there are very few sectors of our community where we encounter men and women of such dedication as those who work in healthcare”.

“We have highly professional and extraordinarily dedicated doctors and nurses, we have dedicated healthcare administrators, we have men and women who devote themselves to caring for the sick and the elderly in their own homes, both professionals and carers from within families themselves.”

Centres of caring

In parishes there were “real centres of caring” providing meals-on-wheels and keeping an eye on the sick and lonely in a neighbourhood. We have those who care for men and women in the final years of their lives through providing palliative care of the highest order.

“These men and women are very often those who are most acutely aware of the failings and inadequacies and false spending of systems. As a society we have a responsibility to ensure that these people are not led to lose motivation – or, indeed, to leave Ireland – through sheer frustration or our lack of interest or recognition of the contribution they bring.”

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times