On this week’s Common Ground, Socialist TD Mick Barry and Fine Gael Senator Regina Doherty argue whether all Irish healthcare should be public.
Socialist TD Mick Barry told The Hard Shoulder the right question to ask is, “Should we have a public health care service in this country, which is so damned good, that people don't see the need to go private?”.
“If the public system is that good, the majority of people won't see the need to go private,” he said.
He argued against a two-tiered system in which people can avail of public healthcare automatically or seek out private healthcare themselves.
“In order to have a strong thriving private healthcare sector, the public system must fail,” he said.
Deputy Barry said the reason there are three hospital beds per 100,000 people is because there are “vested interests” in the private healthcare sector.
“If you had a Government who are absolutely determined to build a world-class, public health care system, it would come up against the private interests,” he said. “I don't think Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael are going to do that.”
Making a choice
Fine Gael Senator Regina Doherty said healthcare in Ireland should be “on the basis of need”.
She said public sector spending is not an issue right now, as the Government are spending “€4,000 per head on healthcare”.
Senator Doherty agreed with Deputy Barry that Ireland does not yet have a “world-class healthcare” system – but this is not because of private healthcare.
She said people still pay taxes towards public healthcare, but some opt for private healthcare “on the basis of need”.
“They make that choice with their hard-earned money.”
National Health Service
Deputy Barry said the last 20 to 25 years have seen a lot of “privatisations” of Irish services such as healthcare.
“You don't have a vision there for the health service,” he said. “The vision should be the original vision that inspired the National Health Service across the water.”
“Free from the cradle to the grave, quality healthcare for all, funded by steeply progressive taxation.”
Deputy Barry said six years after the agreement to introduce Sláintecare in Ireland, the Government is still “less than a quarter away” from the progress that needs to be made.
Senator Doherty argued that the NHS in the UK “isn’t in great shape at the moment” and is not the “gold star example” Deputy Barry suggests it is.
“UK per head spend on health is actually less per capita than we spend here in Ireland,” she said.
“They've got pay issues with their nurses, they've got pay issues with their doctors, they've got an incredibly long waiting list.”
She said all of the issues in Ireland also exist in the UK, and the delivery of the NHS is not as strong as the HSE in its current form.
Deputy Barry said the NHS has been run by the Conservative Party in recent years and is not working as it should be – but it works in theory.
Senator Doherty said improvements can come from improving the “silos” that are “thwarting change” in Irish healthcare.
She said the Irish Medical Organisation should endorse new hospital consultant contracts that give doctors up to €300,000 per year.
Senator Doherty also said patient identifiers would “radicalise” healthcare in Ireland.
“[It would] allow us to have primary care, to have have acute hospitals and elective hospitals and be able to share the information,” she said.
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