Fintan O’Toole: A Baptism barrier would solve our hospital crisis

The A&E crisis could easily be solved in Catholic hospitals by turning away infidels

The very fact that non-Catholics arrogantly expect the same treatment as everybody else is a challenge to the whole concept of faith-based medicine. Photograph: iStock

The very fact that non-Catholics arrogantly expect the same treatment as everybody else is a challenge to the whole concept of faith-based medicine. Photograph: iStock

I have a modest proposal to help ease the terrible congestion in our A&E departments. Patients turning up at Catholic hospitals should be required to show their baptismal certificates. Give priority to the faithful; turn away the infidels. Admittedly, this would not work for every hospital, but it would cover some of the more overcrowded A&E departments: St Vincent’s and the Mater in Dublin, the Mercy in Cork. The unbaptised could try their luck elsewhere. If they’re genuinely desperate, they can ask a chaplain to do the needful.

This may seem a bit harsh, but the principle is surely well established in another major field of public services, education. Everyone has a right to be treated in the publicly funded hospital system, just as every child has a right to an education in publicly funded primary and secondary schools. Our primary schools and most of our secondary schools are in theory private “voluntary” institutions, but in practice State-funded bodies – just as the Catholic hospitals are. Health and education are both recognised as public goods, and access to them is equally central to dignity and citizenship. Given these similarities, there would seem to be no good reason why the method we use in one area (education) to ration access to public provision – the baptismal certificate – should not be used in the other (healthcare).

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