Ireland’s health policy should be based on the needs of patients and communities, not political expediency or the demands of powerful vocal interests within the system, IMPACT has said. Responding to a speech by health minister Simon Harris at the union’s Health and Welfare division conference in Wexford earlier this month, national secretary Eamonn Donnelly said the union backed the ten-year planning approach recently backed by an all-party Oireachtas committee.
“Those who shout loudest should not decide the future of services and workplaces that we all depend on. And structural reforms and the development of services must be planned over a ten-year timeframe, not rooted exclusively in the lifetime of a particular Government,” he said.
Eamonn welcomed the findings of the Oireachtas Committee on the Future of Healthcare, which were published at the end of May, including its recommendation for additional investment the health service over the next decade in order to provide equal access to universal healthcare.
He said unions could support many of the proposals the minister put to the Oireachtas Committee when he gave evidence in March. “We support the view that the HSE could be significantly downsized, and that a small number of integrated regional health groups could better perform most of its functions while reporting directly to the Department of Health. This vision was reflected in the evidence submitted to the Committee by the Congress health unions last year.”
Eamonn told Minister Harris that staff morale had been damaged by “the lazy lexicon of the front-line,” which sought to diminish the role of clerical and administrative staff. “Of course quality services need dedicated nurses and doctors and, indeed, other health and social care professionals who are so often absent from the media and political narrative. But the message, implied or otherwise, that staff in other vital support roles have no value, or are somehow inferior, needs to be nailed once and for all. These people are the backbone of our health services,” he said.