Saturday, 27 June 2009

Official stement from the Kim Jong-IL school of public relations.

Posted by: Dr Thunder.

Now, I've never been a big fan of the HSE. The Health Service Executive is essentially the arm of the Irish department of health that runs our pretty shoddy health service.

In Ireland, despite having recently had over a decade of unprecedented economic growth, we still have a third world health service.

Expensively trained Irish healthcare professionals can be found all over the world, as they make their escape from an environment which is one of the most demoralising in the developed world in which to work.

Patients still languish on trolleys in emergency departments, as they wait for one of the precious beds in our understaffed, filthy, crowded wards.

As a doctor it's frustrating to see healthcare being run into the ground by people who have lost touch with what it's like at the coalface. Talk to people who have worked in emergency departments when there's a ministerial or departmental visit. Patients who have been lying on trolleys for days are suddenly found beds. Exhausted staff are kept out of the way. The sycophants are wheeled out for a meet and greet.

Against a background of spectacular cockups, it wasn't a huge surprise when I heard the HSE will be closing down a part of their spinal surgery services in Our Lady's Hospital, Dublin. This is one of the finest children’s hospitals in the country, and provides essential services for children with scoliosis in Ireland.

Scoliosis is a curvature of the spine. Its effects can be devastating. It leads, in many cases, to significant disfigurement. The curving spine can also impinge on vital internal organs, such as the kidneys, to stop them from functioning properly.

However, we are in the fortunate situation, whereby scoliosis can be treated, or at least managed. Sometimes surgery is the answer. Sometimes a cast is fitted to help the spine grow back straight.

Time is of the essence in these case. Because as the child grows, the curvature gets worse if not treated.

Because of the economic crisis, the HSE need to save money. They need to cut back on wages. So, they had a look around at potential targets.

Admin people? No.

Political advisors? No.

Government trips overseas for St Patrick's day? No

"Hey, what about the only people looking after kids with scoliosis in Ireland?". Great idea.

So, operations have been cancelled, and appointments have been binned. Casts won't be applied. Operations won't be performed. Curvatures will get worse, and these children will go from being able to live a normal life, to being a burden on the state.

Unsurprisingly, the weary Irish public have asked the HSE to explain this decision. So, they did. Oh, sweet Jesus, they did. The statement released to the press said:

"The incidence of children with scoliosis in Ireland is different to other countries, as termination of pregnancies that have a prenatal diagnosis of spina bifida, or other conditions that may develop spinal curvature, is not legal in Ireland".

Christ on a bike!

Why oh why oh why would they say this??? There is a technical point of some sort being made here. But what is it? Are they saying these children should never have been born?

Will they say to all the parents of disabled ex-premature babies "Sorry. If it wasn't for the fact that our doctors are obliged under law to treat your sick kids, then we wouldn't have these problems to deal with. So, we'll be withdrawing all future cerebral palsy care".

There some things that may be technically true, but imply a judgment of sorts. In this case, it's hard to read the statement as saying anything other than "You really shouldn't have had these kids".

There's a lot of offended parents out there.

I've seen too much of this type if nonsense to be surprised.

The HSE are thought to be better at PR than actually managing the health service. If that's the case, we're all screwed.

Dr. Thunder.


  1. Nothing surprises me about the HSE anymore. The cutbacks at Crumlin Hosp are disgraceful.

    Sara Burke, Health Analyst & Author, had a good piece yesterday, of the apartheid nature of our health system. If anyone has a handle on what's going on in Irish healthcare, Sara does...

  2. When serving in the military I was surprised to find Ireland had not fought against the Nazi's in WWII. In fact they rescued a number of German servicemen from the sea and saw they got home. I remember thinking at the time that somehow this would come back to haunt the nation as a whole.
    You post makes me think this may be how. If Hitler's ideas and practices were not bad enough to fight against, perhaps when some neo-Nazi proposes something like this you don't have a moral high ground to critize him from.
    The comment is just stupid and the very idea wrong. However it was wrong in 1939 too.

  3. It is very worrying, my son is one of the many waiting for surgery. I worry that if he ever gets to the top of the list his back will be too bad to operate on.