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The leaders Debate: The Future of Healthcare

February 24, 2016

The leaders Debate: The Future of Healthcare

With the general election fast approaching, many people are still trying to decide who to vote for and which political party to put their trust into. For many in this country, Healthcare and the ease of access to quality healthcare has been one of the biggest issues for the past number of years, no matter who has been in government at the time.

Most will agree that the healthcare system in this country hasn’t worked for everyone. With the wait for a hospital bed as high as it has ever been, it would be hard to disagree with this statement. The numbers of people on trolleys or waiting for scans aren’t published by the HSE, but according to the Nurses & Midwives organisation, the number of people on hospital trolleys peaked at 601 this time last year, which is in stark contrast to the promises made by the government back in 2011 when they said that the then peak of 567 trolleys would never be exceeded.

This blog isn’t a bashing of this government or the one previous, we are looking to highlight what each leader has said in RTE’s debate that aired on the 15th of February, in order for you to make up your own mind on the kind of healthcare system you want to see.

What the leaders said…

Fianna Fail leader, Micheal Martin, who wants to continue with the HSE system, referring to overcrowding being at record levels in hospitals, stated that ‘’Hospitals need greater capacity, they need beds and health is our number one priority’’. He went on to say that Fianna Fail were treating ‘’more people, more successfully’’ when his party were in power.

An Taoiseach Enda Kenny dismissed the claims that the health care system was more successful during Fianna Fail’s tenure, claiming it all to be ‘’rubbish’’. After admitting that his party had been unable to fulfil all of their policies, the Taoiseach went on to speak about the progress that his party was making in the health care sector, stating that ‘’with regards to universal healthcare, we’ve started with the under 6’s, with free GP access and with the over 70’s… We want more access into communities, more home help so that people can have treatment at home and then invest the fruits of the economy in the facilities and hospitals’’

Lucinda Creighton, leader of the Renua party, believes the health system needs to be driven by GP lead care centres. She went on to say that ‘’ We are the 4th highest spending country on Healthcare in the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development), we spend a lot of money on healthcare, when Micheal and his colleagues were in government, spending in health nearly doubled in 10 years, but the outcomes didn’t improve… it’s not just about throwing money at the health service, it’s about ensuring that we manage the health service properly, that we see efficiency’s, good practice’s… I think it can be solved, but it requires leadership and vision. The first thing we’re posing is that we de-politicise it, get all the political parties working together with the help of care professionals, listen to the nurses and doctors, bring them all together and develop a 20 year vision not a 5 year one.’’

Sinn Fein leader, Gerry Adams’ ideas revolve around developing a universal health care system, achieved through direct taxation. It’s of his belief that everyone should be entitled to free healthcare from the cradle to the grave. Their idea is to pump an extra 3 billion into the healthcare system, that’s on top of the 14 billion we are currently spending.

Labour leader Joan Burton believes there is one way to achieve a universal healthcare system and that is through a national, primary, community based service that will allow people to get their care at a local level. She went on to say ‘’We need mental health services at a local level and you will only go to an acute hospital when you need a procedure or an operation and when you have that, you leave the hospital as early as possible and you go to a step down facility or you get your Fair Deal arrangement within four weeks and that has been a really good development’’

Stephen Donnelly, who is joint leader of the Social Democrats, believes the way forward for Ireland’s healthcare system is to adopt a similar system to the NHS, much like what Sinn Fein want to develop, it would be a universal healthcare system. Not that the NHS is the perfect system to adopt, but Mr Donnelly went on to say ‘’Our healthcare system, which is one of the most expensive in the world and staffed by some of the best clinicians out there, is utterly dysfunctional. Modern healthcare systems move from Hospital based systems and push the care out. That means a network of primary care centres, it means you need to use GP specialists’’

Labour and Fine Gael believed that this is exactly what is already being done, but anyone who has been to hospital over the last number of years would admit to not actually seeing this system in practice.

Finally, Richard Boyd Barrett, leader of the People before Profit Alliance agreed that we needed to adopt a universal healthcare system, similar to the NHS, as he believes it is a much cheaper system that can work if operated correctly, he said ‘’Britain spend about half as much because they don’t have all of the money going to the private healthcare providers and the private insurance companies who are just racketeering at the moment… We don’t need market mechanisms of competition in the healthcare sector, what we need is doctors, nurses, medicine and the places for them to practice those things.’’


Looking at the future of healthcare and despite the differences each party has, the majority do seem to agree that an overhaul is needed. Each party had an Idea of what has been going wrong in our healthcare system, each had interesting ideas on what needs to be put in place, or where we need to get to, but no party seemed to discuss how exactly we reach those goals. Billions of euro gets pumped into the healthcare system each year, with very little improvement.

Do you want to see a change or do you want to stick with the same system? Can we even attempt a universal health care system as the basic infrastructure of our current health care system collapses? We want to hear from you. Leave us a comment on our Facebook page and tell us your thoughts.

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