Friday, 2 April 2010

It's been a busy month in healthcare!

I don't know what to blog about today. So many things have happened since my last post that I don't know where to start. So, why don't we have a little round-up of what's been happening:

1) A large teaching hospital in Dublin (Tallaght Hospital) has been found to have 57000 x-rays lying around, that were never reviewed by consultant radiologists. Pretty shocking stuff. Luckily only 2 patients ran into trouble because of it (I believe), though that will be no consolation to those patients and their families. This is a direct result of the lack of staff in the Irish healthcare system. In many countries it would have brought down the government. But in good old Ireland, our trusty health minister, Mary Harney, continued her holiday to New Zealand when the scandal broke!!!

I wonder did she catch up with any of the thousands of disgruntled Irish doctors and nurses working there, while she was visiting.

2) In the same hospital where X-rays don't get read, it seems that GP referral letters don't get read, or even opened, either. 3500 letters were found to be unopened in the admin offices at this large hospital. These would be letters sent by GPs to consultants, asking them to see patients. The request could be for something minor, or it could be on suspicion of a life-threatening illness.

Did this, on top of the x-ray scandal, bring Mary Harney back from her tax-payer funded holiday? No way! Why come back and provide leadership, when there are junior members of government to take the heat for you.

3) Irish doctors and nurses unions have been in negotiations with the government over terms and conditions: GREAT!!! Does this mean they're discussing 24, 36, 48 and 72-hour shifts? Does it mean that they were going to try and make medicine safer for staff and patients by dealing with the dangerous working conditions that are the norm in Irish hospitals??

Nope. They're negotiating so that frontline healthcare professionals don't have to pay extra to keep the health sector running over the next few years. Basically, the Irish economy is screwed. It's on it's last legs.
So the government didn't have enough money to keep the public sector running over the coming year. They needed extra money, and fast. Most able-minded people assumed there would be a levy of sorts, where the population is charged extra, based on their ability to pay. This would make sense, as we all use the public sector, and we should all pay to keep it running.

But no. The government decided that those who work in the public sector should pay the shortfall to keep the pubic sector running. So, doctors, nurses, unskilled labourers, office workers, police officers,teachers etc all had to take a paycut to keep their sectors running. Despite the fact that we don't use the public sector any more than anyone else, we had to pay for it. Despite the fact that junior doctors around the country are working ridiculous hours for free in order to prop up the failing health service, they were hit with a paycut to pay for the same health service that routinely screws them over.

Of course, the public love it, as most of them work in the private sector, and can't see why the public sector workers are upset about all of this. Sure, the economic conditions have dictated that private sector pay has been reduced in many cases, and profits are down. But the only people taking paycuts for the benefit of the country are those who serve the public. The private sector have taken cuts to keep their businesses afloat, or to maintain their bosses' profit margins.

Truly bizarre. But it's a about upsetting as few people as possible, and that strategy has been successful.

Meanwhile in Australia, things are going pretty well for me. My training budget remains, and I can go to conferences and meetings. If I stayed in Ireland, I would be unlikely to get any meaningful training. I fact, some Irish hospitals are making junior doctors work extra hours for free, and calling it "training". In contrast, I get paid for all my hours over here.

It's now been over a year since i worked a 24 hour shift. Yet my Irish colleagues, including pregnant women, are doing even longer shifts on a regular basis.

I'm very happy in Australia right now, but I'd love to go back to Ireland someday. A lot of my colleagues feel the same. And we plan to go back home when things improve.

But I think retirement may come sooner than that!

Dr. Thunder


  1. Our "union" dropped the ball AGAIN in January when they negotiated a new NCHD contract. We lost the training grant, overtime is "averaged" ie, they pay you what they feel like month to month, and they are looking at REDUCING the on-call tiers-so now intern has no registrar to call when help is needed, or conversely, the registrar is running around putting in cannulas and giving FIRST DOSES!

  2. Harney's plan to get her pal, former cancer tsar Tom Keane, to head up the HSE, has fallen through as he turned down the post after failing to get reassurances on HSE funding and staffing. Surprise, surprise !

    Her search for a replacement for Brendan Drumm received another setback yesterday when a top-ranking Australian, Mick Reid, pulled out of the race.

    The pressure on Harney is building!!!

  3. In the Mater hospital they are closing 80 beds (mostly medical) to help save money which means I will be unemployed fairly soon. Why the hell would you close medical beds in an inner city hospital with mostly medical admissions and an extremely chronically ill population living in that area? Simple: So you can create surgical beds out of those closed medical beds and charge private patients to have their elective surgeries done. What about the medical patients languishing on trolleys in an already overflowing A&E? Let them wait for beds for another week. Sure they can't pay with their medical cards anyway.

    In case anyone is wondering, that is SARCASM in the above paragraph. I am saddened and disgusted at this situation and the staff in the Mater are trying to fight this as hard as we can, with little effect. As far as I know it is still going ahead. :-(