The View: Our Health Service is light years away from where it should be

Liam Cosgrove


Liam Cosgrove



We keep hearing, almost on a weekly basis, of how our country’s worst problems are behind us.

Tales of meteoric job creation, buoyed by a gradual upturn in foreign direct investment, has given rise to claims that Ireland can achieve so-called ‘full employment’ by the end of 2018.

They are patterns which has seen us become emblazoned with the mantle of being the European Union’s fastest growing economy.

Impressive stuff. It’s also provided a useful cushion to the incumbent Fine Gael led government in a recent string of opinion polls which has seen it enjoy a double digit lead over its nearest political opponents, Fianna Fáíl.

Yet, behind all the grandiose back slapping and flowery jargon that seems to be meted out almost on a weekly basis from those in government lies an embarrassing and quite shameful anomaly.

For the past two and a half years, my own mother has been forced to live with the most excruciating and debilitating pain while she waited for a hip operation.

As a letter provided alongside this article proves, it was December 22 2015 when she was first placed on a waiting list at Cavan General Hospital.

In the interim, and following an infrequent spattering of follow up transcripts posted to her and ludicrously asking if she still wished to be considered an outpatient, her physical and emotional well-being has inevitably deteriorated.

From an outgoing, vivacious sixty something, who enjoyed nothing better than to pursue her favoured physical pastimes of walking and swimming, my beloved mother was forced to forego all of that while she waited for the call from the HSE.

It never came. But what came for her was two and a half years of agony, distress and intolerable hurt.

Basic chores of walking from the sitting room to the kitchen to make a cup of tea soon became a major headache.

Even sleeping at night and getting up at the crack of dawn to wave my Dad off to work gradually became a mere distant memory.

All the while, efforts behind the scenes by yours truly and my brother to speed up my mother’s wait came to naught.
Her cause, which was subject to numerous parliamentary questions tabled by Longford-Westmeath TD Robert Troy in the Dáil, likewise fell on deaf ears.

In the end, we, as a family, were forced to consider a way out of this sorry mess by signing up to the Cross Border Treatment Scheme.

An initiative that has been in operation here for some years, it allows patients to be undergo procedures in the North if waiting lists are lengthy or a treatment is not available in Ireland.

The only caveat is that patients must cover the costs of their procedure up front before money is subsequently repaid by the HSE.

Following an initial phone call to Belfast’s Kingsbridge Private Hospital at the end of December my mother was told she could be given a consultation appointment within the space of just 24 hours.

Family commitments at the time prevented her from taking up that offer with a date of February 2 being pencilled in instead.
Finally, there was some daylight at a very long and completely avoidable tunnel. And, after almost two and a half years, my mother’s long suffering anguish finally came to an end when she underwent a successful hip operation (last Monday week, April 16) under the excellent care of staff at Kingsbridge Private Hospital.

Now recuperating at home, she has already taken her first steps without the angst and torment that had been etched across her face over the two and a half years previous to that.

It’s an example that is probably one of several such cases up and down the country. But it’s also a timely reminder that our country’s health service is light years away from where it should be.

How many more people have to go through the types of personal hardship that my mother has endured over the past two and a half years before anyone will actually sit up, take stock and say ‘enough is enough’.

Health Minister Simon Harris has repeatedly come out on the national airwaves to express his dismay over hospital waiting lists.

He has promised to inject tens of millions of taxpayers’ money to tackle the problem. Those promises are not being reflected in the thousands of hard luck cases like my own mother’s.

The cold hard truth is underlined by the fact a staggering 70,000 patients in need of surgery will still languish on hospital waiting lists by the end of 2018.

It’s a damning indictment of any society, never mind government whatever your political persuasion may be.

I’m just thankful my mother won’t be one of them