Noel Whelan makes a very good point about cancer services in this piece, and also a general observation about media attitudes towards health-care in this country. It’s almost impossible to read a positive story in the Irish media about health services, or indeed hear the phrase “A&E” mentioned without “crisis”, “third world” or “medieval”.
Yet here’s the funny thing: Talk to people with recent experience of the public health system, and you get a much more mixed picture. You still get nightmare stories about A&E from some people, about waiting for hours, and drunks and addicts fighting, and it does seem extraordinary that we can’t get a grip on that. But the fact is, the level of care you get once inside the system is good. I’ve seen it with my own family, in a public hospital. Do we have waiting lists? Yes, we do. That’s one of the side affects of having a health system that isn’t based on whether someone can afford treatment or not. Infinite demand meeting finite resources. Do other countries have lists as long as ours? No, but then they don’t have the best paid public medical professionals in Europe. We’ve created the health-care system we want, and you don’t hear health-care campaigners demanding cuts in the single biggest part of the health budget: pay. In Ireland, illness does not, for the most part, bring the total financial catastrophe that it brings in the US.
Yet people are almost ashamed to admit it. I’ve seen people shouted down for daring to suggest that Irish healthcare isn’t bad. As a nation, we love to wallow in the idea that everything is f**ked and there’s nothing we can do about it.
When the Dutch were threatened with the sea wiping them off the face of the Earth, they elected competent governments that built dykes and actually made the sea retreat. We rotate the same inbred clowns (FF/FG: The Deliverance offspring of Irish politics) and then revel in what pathetic losers we are collectively. The Israelis don’t forget the Holocaust. But they’ve tooled up to ensure it’ll never happen again. We, on the other hand, almost rub our hands with glee at the opportunity to feel hard done by once again.