I was listening to an old classic earlier – Del Amitri’s ‘Nothing Ever Happens’ – and I was reminded of how brilliant the song is. Musically, and especially lyrically it’s an under rated gem. As I was listening to the words, it occurred to be that it was painfully relevant to today’s society. Here’s a verse –
Bill hoardings advertise products that nobody needs
While angry from Manchester writes to complain about
All the repeats on T.V.
And computer terminals report some gains
On the values of copper and tin
While American businessmen snap up Van Goghs
For the price of a hospital wing
Nothing ever happens, nothing happens at all
The needle returns to the start of the song
And we all sing along like before
And we’ll all be lonely tonight and lonely tomorrow
Last week’s Prime Time Investigates on hospital waiting lists was tough but compelling viewing. Every so often, whether it’s an exposé on childcare or corrupt councillors, RTE’s investigative journalists hit a note that has the whole country talking the next day. If we ever needed a reminder about the importance of journalism, and the despicability of our political system, that programme was it. It was actually sickening.
A 13-year old girl called Megan, who suffers from scoliosis, cannot attend school because the curve in her spine is so severe. Two years ago, she had a 20 degree curve and now, because she’s been kicked down the hospital waiting line so much, it’s now the shape of an ‘S’, which is a painful, and dangerously serious regression. I’m getting angry just writing this. With absolutely no disrespect to her parents, if that was my child, I’d be out in that f**king hospital with a flame thrower.
Last week the TDs and Ministers announced a pay-rise for themselves, and not one of them deserve it. If a soccer team was relegated, you can be sure that the players wouldn’t be getting a wage hike. All those TDs are on a team that is struggling badly. In the top three worst countries in Europe for waiting lists and they all get a pay-rise – what the hell kind of message does is that to be sending out?
If that Prime Time programme wasn’t aired, nothing would have been done about it, like always. But thankfully, it was. Those brilliant journalists worked days, weeks and months, and the whole country stood up and took notice. Here’s the problem though – what department of the health system (just one of a number of systems in this country that are failing) is going to be on next week’s show? Unfortunately they’ll have to move on, for the same reason we can’t put the hospital on the front page every week – the majority of people rarely care, until the pain comes knocking at their door.
After that show, Minister Harris was forced to do some soul searching. When the cabinet was announced last May I wondered to myself what poor Simon had done to Enda to get the hardest job in politics. He will never amount to much after this because his name will forever be attached to the worse period of Irish Health since the decade before Sean Lemass came to prominence. The HSE is a disgrace, and has been for a number of years…constantly papering over massive cracks and running for cover every time another health scandal is exposed. Harris could be a good politician, but we’ll never find because he’s like a 100 year old woman bringing an Irish Wolfhound for a walk.
After Prime Time Investigates, he promised that a new operating theatre –especially for scoliosis patients – would be open at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital Crumlin from April. He says the opening of that operating theatre was delayed because of staffing issues. The people of Waterford have heard that one before, haven’t we? UHW lost 10 beds last October because of staff problems. That in turn meant that we couldn’t get 15 beds that were promised to us to offset the winter surge of sickness. It’s now February and just four of those beds have been put back into circulation. I’d hate to be the one to say it to Megan and her family, but I wouldn’t be holding my breath on that scoliosis unit. The only thing she has in her favour is that its declaration was so public and Minister Harris will scrub up himself if it means delivering the promise.
And this right here, is the importance of journalism. I feel that it’s my duty to remind politicians of their promises. Harris came in to Waterford last November and said that we’d have the 10 beds open and the additional 15 beds before winter’s icy hands loosened its grip on our hospital. That never happened…the promise, like so many more before (remember James O’Reilly promising that we’d have 24/7 cardiac care?) was worthless.
To quote the song above, the needle keeps returning to the start and we all keep singing along like before. We need to do more. Protests don’t work because they’re too easily ignored. We need to expose lies, broken promises and the sharpest knife of all – the painful reality of our health service victims. We need our TDs (David Cullinane has been a master of this to be fair) to issue parliamentary questions and Freedom of Information requests because, in theory, they have to tell the truth (for fear of being exposed of covering anything up)
Last October, a contact of mine in the hospital told me that we had lost those ten beds. I immediately put the question to the HSE. What did they do next? They issued a south east wide press release about the beds. Rather than have me ‘expose’ the story, they tried to ‘manage’ it, dismissing it as simply a temporary staffing problem. It’s not temporary – it’s a national crises. Doctors and Nurses are graduating and going as far away from Ireland as possible because the pay is rubbish and the working conditions are even worse.
The majority of nurses in this country earn between 24K per year and 31K per year. Meanwhile, Luas Drivers ended their strike recently when their €42K per year salary was increased to €50K. There is something seriously wrong lads, but nothing ever happens, and nothing ever changes.