What iceberg?

I stopped trying to figure out where to start when describing Mary Harney. Its not easy to accurately describe her, its virtually impossible to understand her and try as you might you cant remain objective. There is no neutral ground when it comes to your health, you're either with her policies or against them.
I make no apology for being against them, Ive seen nothing worthy of support. I find it strange that a woman who recieved less then 5000 1st preference votes, belonging to a now defuct party has control over the health services of almost 5 million people. Stranger still is that shes still there, but then when you consider who sits along side her on the front benches, maybe its not that strange after all.
In line with the 'revolutionary' thinking of her party, free market policies were incorporated into our health services, economies of scale, centralisation, privatisation would solve our woes. We pumped in more money then ever, hired more managers and consultants and lets not forget co-location to free up all those badly needed beds, the future should be rosy, free and equitable health for all, all we had to do was wait........
And wait we did, 3 years on and co-location has yet to yield a single extra bed, waiting times have increased, the HSE now resembling its creator has become bloated only with consultancy firms and managers and even now with a budget of 16 billion a year, we still cant afford €14 million to immunise 12 years olds and save up to 90 lives a year. €14 million for 90 lives, thats about €150,000 per life, thats less than you pay in overtime to private consultants Mary, you know like the ones who work for MKC.

I wonder how much MRPA KINMAN (now MKC) made in consultancy fees, working for the HSE? Weren't they the same firm that set up HIQA? Aren't they the same firm chaired by Brian Geoghegan? Isn't he married to the minister for health?
I wonder how much money Brian Geoghegan makes from the carparks in our PUBLIC hospitals, better still I wonder how he got contracts for carparks in public hospitals?
I wonder how much of that €14m needed to save 90 lives a year goes to Mary Harneys husband, goes to Mary harney?
Im not sure when Adam Smith spoke of the 'invisble hand', this is quite what he meant, I think the PD's (2 of whom also happen to be directors of MKC) got their free market economics confused with cronyism and cowenomics. Even the free market is not this callous, surely 12 years olds are more important than profit margins Mary? then again, maybe not.
So where do you draw the line Mary? When does the health of these people supercede the interests of the shareholder?
The elderly,
The disabled,
Cancer patients,
Medical card holders,
Prescription drugs,
Whos left? The mentally ill- no, Its a long time since you gave up on them- no profit there but cancer patients, thats where the real money is.
In the Northwest theres not enough patients to justify radiotherapy in a public facility but there are enough 'customers' to justify it, in subsidised unregulated private hospitals. But its not about profits is it Mary? its about beds or rather the lack of them, you'ld never subsidise private hospitals so they could cherry pick the profitably procedures?
Would you?

Like I said at the start its hard to describe someone like Harney, egotistical, apathetic, dishonest, hypocritical and greedy go some of the way but not far enough.
This ship is definitely going down Mary and once again the lifeboats are full, and its the people in steering class that are getting screwed but what do you care?
You're gone one way or the other, the only question is whether you walk through the door or get pushed and when.

UCHG A&E at 11am 20/08/2008

August 20th 2008:

You hear the stories, you read the newspapers and official reports, the debates are never ending and you think you've seen or heard it all but you haven't. Not until you see it for yourself, does it becomes clear the ruinous state our health services are in.
On a wet August wednesday morning at 11am, in Galways primary health facility at least 12 people lay on trolleys in and around A&E. In the same county hospital that the Minister for Health hails from, staff did their best to tend to ill patients in a room with 1/2 inch plywood, a mere 4ft high seperating them from other poor unfortunates waiting for medical assistance.
Notions of dignity, privacy, hygiene were lost among the hustle and bustle of over-worked staff, cramped conditions, and crumbling infrastructure. The Minister for Health said recently that she couldnt look the women of the northwest in the eye, I wonder how she feels about the men and women of Galway. UCHG is bursting at the seems and yet shes still determined to see out her disastorous term as Minister for Health.
Ego, self-importance and reckless arrogance have destroyed our heath services, in Harney we have someone who epitomises everything thats wrong with politics, our health services and the 'new' Ireland. She may not be able to look the women of the northwest in the eye but then again she doesnt visit the northwest, I wonder how she even holds her head up in public anymore, how she can face the people of Galway, how can she face herself and the mire that is our health system.


August 17th 2008

150 people climb legendary
Knocknarea mountain in Sligo. As tradition dictates each participant brings a stone to the ancient cairn of Queen Maeve, the warrior queen of Connaught.
The youngest had just turned 3, the oldest was in her 80's accompanied by her life long friend, herself only a year younger. Cancer patients struggled up the wet rocks, families carried stones in rememberance of their loved ones lost and even some local politicans made the trek to the top.
After a week of storms, floods across the country and a months rain in a single dark August day, even the weather was kind that morning as people from all across the northwest stood together at the top of Queen Maeves tomb.
As one walker said, 'with Queen Maeve and God on our side who the hell can be on theirs'

No money, no co-location

Beacon Medical Group’s co-located hospital at the Mid-West Regional in Limerick is the first in the country to get a final grant of planning permission, after two appeals to An Bord Plean├íla – one involving Socialist Party leader Joe Higgins – were both deemed invalid.
However, after months of high-stakes talks, the whole future of Health Minister Harney’s co-location strategy now hangs on events due to unfold over the coming week.
“There are three hospitals that we want to get signed up now,” a HSE spokesperson said. The HSE says it is ‘very, very confident’ that project agreements (PA) for co-located hospitals at St James’s in Dublin and at the Waterford Regional Hospital will be signed very shortly.
The HSE has asked for updates and clarifications from all the consortia but has insisted that the documentation must be finalised by the end of July. The Synchrony consortium has now agreed a date – before the end of August – when it will sign a Project Agreement for St James’s. Synchrony will also post the required €20 million bond with the HSE.
A PA for Sligo, where Mount Carmel Medical Group (MCMG) is the preferred bidder, will certainly take a month longer than at MCMG’s other co-location in Waterford and at St James’s. Beacon would be offered the contract to build these two hospitals, should deals not be signed. Sligo is described as a ‘disaster of a site’, built on top of a hill. The technicalities of joining the proposed and the older parts of the hospital are difficult. The Waterford Co-location Consortium is to build the hospital in that city and MCMG will be the operator there.

Read the full article here in the Irish Medical Times

For everything else there's Mary Harney

And the Seanad too

We weren't expecting anything different, hoping maybe but certainly not expecting any better. The lack of faith, illustrated best by the small turnout of campaigners said it all. These people had been lied to before and why travel all the way to Dublin to be lied to again.
The senators debated, the senators voted and the motion was defeated.
Read the full debate here...

'Talk is cheap' one of these senators said to me back in April as we briefly spoke after a public meeting in Ballina. I had just listened to him tell the packed conference room about his concern for Sligo's cancer services. 'Family first, the Northwest second and Fianna Fail third' was how he passionatley described his priorities. I didnt believe it then but why not give the young senator the benefit of the doubt?
I did and he was right, talk is cheap.
All we've heard is talk, not alone do these senators contradict each other, they manage to contradict themselves. We're not supposed to notice but we do, we're not supposed to challenge them but we do, yet it makes no difference. So what is the point?

What does it take to get your government to notice?
We've had the protests, the motions and even a concert. We produced the medical evidence, they ignored it, we tried to reason with them they refused to speak to us.
So what will it take? I think we know the answer but are we willing?

....I'm going home

When is a political issue not a political issue?

When you have a minister for health that ignores medical evidence, quotes out of date and inaccurate statistics and refuses to acknowledge a differing opinion, are you faced with a medical issue or a political one? When our TD's and senators are unable or even unwilling to help, where can you turn?
They all talk about best medical practice and best patient outcomes, yet choose to ignore evidence that meets and even surpasses these standards. If this was truly a medical issue, then surely there would be no issue. The answer would be simple, the evidence enough and the decision already made. But this is not the case, this is not how things work anymore in the new Ireland, complaints don't go up, they go around. Theres no-one to take responsibility because nobody wants it, its better not to know, its easier.

So how exactly did we get to this point? Our politicans hide behind misplaced party loyalties, more concerned with the anger of their party then the health of their constituents. With a blatant disregard for the constitution, Mary Harney delegates to anyone willing to accept the responsibility (or at least until they can in turn delegate to someone else). These elected representatives scream that Sligo's cancer services is not a political issue, yet when the medical evidence is presented, its duly ignored.
Where does it end? at what point will people say enough? at what point will it be too late?
Its a dangerous experiment we're involved in, people will get hurt and careers damaged if not destroyed but if thats what it takes for people to listen, for people to care, then maybe its a very neccesary experiment.

Its not just Europe that's angry

The result is not in question, 33 out 43 constituencies agreed to disagree with Lisbon. Theres no doubt that the people came out and the people said no. The only question is why?
Jimmy Devins would have us believe that 'Sligo was one of the better results', if 57% No was a good result, then what would they call a bad result? Maybe Mary Coughlan could answer that, Donegal South and North both returned No results above 60%.
Theres a hundred different reasons people voted no, some valid, some a little less so. In the northwest there was definitely one good reason, the people don't trust Fianna Fail, they simply don't trust their own government. When a newly appointed Tánaiste can't carry a vote in her own constituency, you know theres more than uncertainty.
Call it what you will, explain it anyway that makes you comfortable but its hard to escape the truth, mere doubt doesnt make people leave their houses to vote.
I suppose it sort of answers one particular question; How many times can you lie to people before those same people stop believing your lies? I guess last week, people stopped believing the lies but its probably a year to late.
Mary Coughlan lied about the northwests cancer services, Jimmy Devins and Eamonn Scanlon too, around the country similar groups of people vented their anger at a government that turned its back on them. The vote was a NO to the government, a no to corruption, a no to a crumbling health system, a no to a failing economy, it was simply no.
No more.

Let them eat cake...

A young Fianna Fail counsellor asked me yesterday;
Why they are hated so much now?
What did they do?
Don't people want the new bus?
Why is everyone blaming Fianna Fail?
He questions seemed earnest and his concern real, giving him the benefit of the doubt, I tried to explain it to him as best I could. I tried to describe how this empty gesture appeared from our point of view or more importantly a patients, he couldnt or maybe didnt want to understand.
If Im honest, I couldnt see it from his point of view either, no matter how hard I tried.
This went back and forth for 20 minutes or so, we debated the issue and the debate was friendly but it turned out to be utterly pointless. Thankfully it turned to smalltalk, then we both left with a handshake, a bad joke and little else. Its strange but I know this man, I know his friends and Im sure he's a good guy but outside of that I actually dont know this man. I dont understand him, I don't understand the blind allegiance that I see in these people or where it comes from. How is loyalty to a party more important than a persons life? How can you privately profess that you support something but everything you say or do in public screams the opposite? They cannot all be liars, I know that much but if anyone has a better answer, please tell me.

We're campaigning for patients rights, their rights of equal access to health care, their human rights, the very things our constitution speaks of. We are trying to stop our government and minister for health closing down our health services based on statistics from the end of the last century.
We want to make sure that people who are already scared, already suffering and in some cases dying dont have to be seperated needlessly from their loved ones. That they wont have to endure any unnecessary pain and discomfort, that they have the choice of treatment other irish people have. That they are not herded like livestock onto a bus day after day, week after week for treatment that could, treatment that should be freely available to them.

And what is the governments response? the Fianna Fail response?
A new bus....... and yet he doesn't understand

The Politics of Men.................

You could tell she was slightly awestruck by his presence but not intimidated, she spoke up, said what was on her mind, declined his leaflet and continued on with her shopping. I heard her say the names 'Scanlon, Devins' and the word 'disgrace' and the source of her anger became immiediatley obvious. The sight of Sligo's favourite son immaculate in navy blazer and cream trousers handing out 'Yes to Lisbon' flyers didnt surprise her as much it did me. Here was a man used to warm welcomes, hearty handshakes and generous compliments, a former minister for finance and EU commisioner, a man not prepared for the quiet anger of a middle aged woman in the centre of his town.
I know that this man has lost someone dear to him but I wondered who it was she had lost.

Within seconds her place was taken by an elderly couple, again leaflets were offered, this time one was accepted. The husband enjoyed his chance to shake hands with this elder statesman, the wife refused to acknowledge him and as impatience got the better of her, she quickly walked off, leaving behind her husband and his awkward attempts at small talk.
We spoke with this statesman, he berated us for implying that this was a political issue, how the recent Dail motion did more damage then good and that a lifetime in politics told him as much.
I asked if this was so true, why he hadn't spoken out before? why wait until a week after the motion? The answers were short and impatient, 'the government has to vote against the opposition', 'Castlebar and Letterkenny should never have been included'. I asked why loyalty to a party was more important then loyalty to the people who elected them? his face flushed and he turned his back on us.

'People are going to die Ray' and he turned to face us again but this time his attentions focused on the woman to my right. Although not given to raising her voice and small in stature, she has a commanding presence. Her soft voice hides a quiet determination and dignity that only suffering brings and thus makes it all the more impossible to ignore. It dawned on me then, that it would be women that would solve this problem, I didnt have time to wonder why this was but whatever the reason, Im certain it's so.
We left with his angry promise 'I will bring them to Drumm and Keane myself' referring to the medical reports the HSE has chosen to ignore, the ones that the government wishes didnt exist, the ones that expose the lies and also the liars.

No more than two hundred yards away we ran into a Fianna Fail TD and senator, the TD ignored us, the senator looked on anxiously, we let them know we wished to speak and waited. To pass the time we joked about what we would say and how we would say it, I looked for familiar faces in the crowds but saw none. As the senator finally approached us, she nervously appraised us. We had tried and failed to meet with her on a number of occasions and I sensed this was partly the reason she seemed apprehensive. We discussed the closing of Sligo's cancer services, the conditions the men and women have to endure every day on their journey to and from Galway. We discussed how the region will be left without any diagnostics as Breastcheck has no schedule for the Northwest, we discussed how Mary Harney and the HSE were allowed to use figures and statistics that we all know to be out of date and incorrect but yet go unchallenged, we discussed.

Its a conversation we've all had many times now but its one that we've grown weary of, we all agree whats happening is wrong, yet can agree on nothing else. Still I was glad to have met this senator, having only previously spoken to her over the phone, I knew little of her and was less than impressed by how little she knew on that occasion. In person there was a different side to her, I think she felt genuinely ashamed by what was happening and wanted to be of help. Yet despite this, her party allegiance reared its head when I blamed their policies, I'm still surprised by this misplaced loyalty and its blindness, have they lost the ability to doubt or to think for themselves?
The myopia of these people, these 'leaders' and their stubborn reluctance to question what they know to be untrue is staggering, I dont know how to describe it because I cant understand it. I dont doubt she wanted to help, I only doubt if she could.

Later I thought of another woman, it was the agreed meeting with her this very morning that had first brought us into Sligo centre. In her office she described how she would try to help us, she was careful not to give us false hope but she did however, give us hope. It wasnt hard to imagine her in her former career, teaching honours maths to nervous students. As she detailed the positives and negatives of our proposal, an analytical and intelligent mind revealed itself. I pictured her in Europe, an Independent, an Irish woman and MEP, free from the party ties that seem to strangle our local representatives. I tried to imagine how hard she must have had to work to get that far, it made it very easy to admire her.
She didnt need to make any promises to us, we instinctively knew she would do as she said and left her to it.

Its the promise that was made later on that saturday afternoon that worries me. Those reports have already been presented, those reports have already been ignored.
Did this man mean what he said? was it another false promise to get rid of an increasing annoyance? Was this another lie designed to cloud the real issue at hand? Theres no way to be sure and thats what concerns me.
One certainty though, is that we will keep you to that promise Ray. But if you break that promise, its not the men of the Northwest you need to be wary of.

The Awful truth

Centres of excellence, Critical mass, Economic effectiveness, best practice, best international practice. If you've ever had the pleasure of talking to a member of Fianna Fail or the DOHC / HSE about the future of Irelands cancer services, these terms will be rolled out with an unnerving ease.
You'll hear all about how 'it's best for the patient', how Professor Keane won't change his mind, how even Bertie tried to convince him but the stubborn professor just wouldn't budge.
They'll even try to convince you that they tried their best and with a defeatist shrug of their shoulders exclaim 'what else can we do?'
Good oul Fianna Fail, sure they did what they could and what else can you ask for?

The truth is always a good place to start.

The problem is that, truth, honesty and decency are not words you tend to associate with Fianna Fail. It seems that getting caught is their only concern. On the same day Brian Cowen hit the streets of Galway to boost the flagging Lisbon campaign, his predecessor is beguiling the rest of the nation with his unbelievable luck at the track. All this fuss over 'a few quid and sure didnt he win it after all'.
So where do you start?
Is it even possible to penetrate this cult of dishonesty?
Where does 'cute hoor' stop and criminal begin?
Does anyone even care?

If nothing else, maybe we'll at least get the answer to that final question.


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