The Taoiseach, winter and the HSE


Sir, – I am an Irish doctor working in New Zealand.

After two years here, in spite of the daily news stories chronicling the soap opera that is the Health Service Executive, I have decided to return home in 2019, a decision which has caused many here to question my sanity. I am returning primarily because of friends, family, and a love of Ireland – and definitely not because of a desire to be a subject of the HSE.

There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t agonise whether I am making the right decision.

Then I see the Taoiseach, himself a doctor, using such careless language that points the finger at those in the front line – the doctors and nurses who themselves are never listened to and have no say in the political decisions which are made above them, and which greatly affect their clinical practice and private lives.

Doctors and nurses do not need to work more – rather we need more doctors and nurses to work! It’s not rocket science.

Needless to say, I’m not the only Irish doctor working abroad who is watching at a distance that gives such a clear perspective. I’m sure a good half of us will never return, and the Taoiseach and the Minister for Health are doing a good job at making that decision easier for those who don’t. – Yours, etc,



New Zealand.

A chara, – I read with interest Leo Varadkar’s comment that health services should attempt to meet peak demand. All health workers (including the Taoiseach) realise that peak demands extend for the entire winter season. Healthcare should be for life not just for Christmas. – Is mise,



Co Monaghan.

Sir, – While the Taoiseach has aired his views on staffing in our hospitals I cannot recall him making the same comments when he was minister for health. Maybe he had other matters on his mind. – Yours, etc,


Ennis, Co Clare.

Sir, – Recent media comments by the Taoiseach to the effect that “patients come in and they don’t get their tests and they don’t get their diagnoses” over the Christmas period are both unfair and unhelpful. Medical scientists, along with their more visible nursing and medical colleagues and the many other healthcare grades, will continue to work throughout this Christmas period, as they have every other Christmas, to keep hospitals going for the many seriously ill patients who need treatment.

Laboratory services are available 24/7 and 365 days a year at the level appropriate to the clinical needs of patients. Only those who are seriously ill or who need urgent medical attention attend hospitals over the Christmas period. On the weekends and public holidays over Christmas, the laboratory service will match every other weekend and public holiday throughout the year; on the other days of the period laboratories will offer a full service. There are limited primary care and non-urgent services in operation at this time and it would not be a good use of the limited resources to staff laboratories and other diagnostic services at the level required to support such routine services. Over the Christmas period while many in the country can enjoy almost two weeks off work, many medical scientists will struggle to have three days off in a row.

The Medical Laboratory Scientists Association invites Mr Varadkar to pay a visit to one of the hidden parts of frontline services of any hospital at any time over Christmas so that he can see for himself how laboratories are working “at full whack” throughout the period. – Yours, etc,


Industrial Relations Officer,

Medical Laboratory

Scientists Association,

Dublin 1.