Save Wexford General Hospital Campaign

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Wexford General Hospital has already suffered the effects of downgrading/reconfiguration. St. Catherine’s Gynae Ward closed with the loss of 14 beds, and St. Aiden’s Ward closed with the loss of 25 beds, it actually previously lost one bed when a private room was turned into the ward sisters office! The closure of St. Catherine’s Ward also impacted on St. Mary’s Ward which lost 12 beds which have been replaced by day care trolleys. Added to that the closure of the X-Ray department between the hours of 5 a.m. – 9 a.m., the relocation of breast reconstruction surgery to Waterford, on top of numerous cuts in staff hours, and various other cost saving measures that local management have imposed on our hospital, it is very clear that we have a major attack on the standard of health care we have enjoyed in Wexford up until now.

During the Summer I had an opportunity to speak at a meeting in London, of the Keep the NHS Public campaign, and one of the things I noticed from speaker after speaker, was that they referred to the NHS as a health care body, unlike over here where when we speak of the HSE, it seems to refer to an elusive group of bureaucrats, which is why I think it is important to take a look at who exactly these faceless executives are…

  • Pat Farrell, CEO Irish Bankers Federation (former President of Fianna Fail)
  • Donal de Butleir, General Manager in the Office of the Chief Executive of Allied Irish Bank
  • Eugene Mc Cague, a senior partner in Arthur Cox Solicitors, and Executive Member of Dublin Chamber of Commerce
  • Liam Downey, former CEO of Becton Dixon Pharmaceutical company, and former member of the National Executive of IBEC the employers federation
  • P.J. Fitzpatrick former CEO of the Irish Courts Service
  • Joe Mooney, a retired senior official at the Dept. Of Finance
  • Joe Lavelle, Chartered Accountant, and a manager at Deloitte
  • Sylda Langford, Director General at the Office of the Minister for Children
  • John Fitzgerald, a retired senior civil servant, former Dublin City Council Manager 1996-2006
  • Prof. Brendan Drumm, salary €371,000 plus bonuses/expenses
  • Dr. Frank Dolphin, owner of the recruitment agency Rigney/Dolphin a company well known for outsourcing public sector employment.  He replaces Liam Downey as Chairman of the HSE
  • Cathal Mc Gee Former CEO of Eircom, and more interestingly a member of the Executive of EBS. Chairman of the EBS’ Risk Committee.

This group of people, were all hand-picked by Minister Mary Harney, but is this group, this executive representative of the people who use our health service? Is it representative of who works on the front line in our health service? Only by being hand-picked by Mary Harney could such an unrepresentative a group be brought together. The list reads more like tee off times at the millionaires  K-Club rather than a comittee charged to run our health service. The banking and financial sectors are well represented in this group, and the control that the banking sector have through every strand of Irish society is one of the main factors in why our hospitals, our schools and our communities are being decimated. Already you may have heard Mary Harney sowing the seeds for a slash and burn budget where the Health Service is concerned. There is no doubt that the upcoming budget will cut spending to health in the most extreme measures since the foundation of the Irish State.

There is no doubt that one of the primary goals of the current Government is to get rid of any responsibility for health care in Ireland. The setting up of the HSE, and also the health service licensing agency, HIQA, a kind of Standards and Poors for the Health service if you like, is all about dissolving Government responsibility for the service. There is no one accountable for anything in the Health Service, hospital managers are saying they are trying to work within the budget set for them by the HSE, the HSE are saying that they must work within the budget set down by Mary Harney, Harney will blame the Department of Health officials and advisors who in turn blame the Dept. Of Finance, who blame the Government, who blame the “current economic climate”!!! Which all leads to happy confusion and a total lack of any answers!

Now of course all of this confusion leads the confused public to one conclusion that things need to change, and you know what? The government will come up with an alternative, they will suggest a privatised health service, where employees can be recruited on cheaper wages, perhaps even by Rigney Dolphin! They will suggest a health service which is paid for by everyone, universal health insurance, we all pay and the VHI, Quinn, and Aviva come in and take over the running of our hospitals, and health centres.

They are paving the way for this by grossly underfunding our hospitals and health service.

Sadly Fine Gael and Labour may also be all too willing to take this route.

What we need is a properly funded full free public health service, and an end to the medical apartheid that is strangling the Irish health service. We need an end to the control of the insurance companies who have private patients treated in our public hospitals, where if you can pay, you can jump the queue for treatment.

The other leech on the body of health care in Ireland is the Pharmaceutical companies, these companies are making a fortune from the sick people of Ireland, while generic drugs are kept from the grasp of those who desperately need them. Why should someone who is ill have to go get a credit union loan to pay for a prescription, the cost of medication is a disgrace and this is a battle that needs to be fought also.

There seems to be a rabid determination on behalf of the HSE, through their Reconfiguration committee, to downgrade WGH to Day Hospital status…

This means the loss of 24 hour A&E cover, it would mean effectively a 9-5 type service, or possibly 9-9 service.

Wexford General Hospital will not survive if its 24 hour A&E cover goes as access to Irelands health services is by and large mostly accessed through A&E admissions, were we to lose it here in Wexford, it would be disastrous for the long term future of the hospital.

It also means that patients from Kilmore, or Rosslare, or Kilmuckridge, or Bunclody would have to go to Waterford for emergency treatment, all very fine if there is indeed an ambulance available, because all of the ambulance cover will now more likely be in Waterford rather than Wexford. And what about the family of the patients, how will they manage to get to Waterford to even visit the patient, if they have no car then there will be no way down to Waterford, and even if they have a car there is the huge cost of petrol to consider? They certainly won’t be going by train from Rosslare down to Waterford! This is a very real worry for many elderly people in the North and the South East of the County.

Maternity services and Paediatric services are also set to go to Waterford from WGH, while ironically I read on INMO website only today that 3 beds have been permanently closed in Waterford!

I am not forgetting St. Senan’s Psychiatric hospital in all of this either, they have a major and imminent battle to face as well, and it is my hope that we can defend all of our health services in County Wexford by relaunching this campaign to Save Our Hospital, and by conducting another massive protest on the streets of Wexford to show Harney, and to show the HSE that the people of Wexford demand a top class health service in our own County.

We have not had any reassurances from our politicians, and we have had nothing but cloak and dagger behaviour from the HSE. We need to do this ourselves, we need to stand up and fight back.

Seamus O’ Brien (Organizer of the Save Wexford General Hospital Campaign and People Before Profit candidate for Wexford)

  1. Paul Nolan says:

    I, my family and friends will participate in protests to protect and increase services at WGH.

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