Shades of Healthcare Future: Irish Government May Fall for Lack of a New Diagnostic Lab

Imagine if the upcoming national election hinged entirely on whether or not San Francisco General were to be provided funding to add a diagnostic lab.

Imagine if one of the candidates, foiled in his efforts until now to get this funding, lashed out at his political opponents with attacks such as:

I don’t want to bring down the Government. But if it takes that, I will have to.

I am not going to be f***ed over by anybody. I don’t care if it is the man on the street or some guy threatening me. And you can print that.

—Again, all over a broken promise to fund one new lab in one hospital.

Yet such is the story now dominant in Ireland.

During our now nearly two weeks in Ireland, the continuing saga over the EU’s Apple tax ruling vies each day for prominence on the front page with one story after another of a total crisis in the provision of healthcare here:

September 8:

Record 530,000-plus Patients on Hospital Waiting Lists
Over 74,000 Waiting Longer Than a Year for Appointments, NTPF Figures Show

—This in a country of 4.6 million people: 11.5% of the population. In the U.S., this would be the equivalent of 37 million people on waiting lists.

September 7:

VHI [Ireland’s State-owned Health Insurer] Warns Soaring Claims Could Overwhelm System
Health Insurer Expresses Concern at Surge in Claims Costs as a Result of Ageing Population

September 5:

Cost of Each Extra Hospital Bed €325,000, Report Finds
Department of Health Indicates Few Funds Available Outside of Planned Big Projects

September 6:

Beaumont [Ireland’s national neurosurgical center] Turns Away Patients in Urgent Need of Brain Surgery
Refusal at Neurosurgical Centre Due to Lack of Beds and Theatre Access, says Clinical Director

This follows on the earlier story:

Most Neurology Patients Wait Over a Year for MRI, Report Claims
Staff Issues and Lack of Beds Lead to A&E Waits, Neurological Alliance of Ireland Says

Meanwhile, in news affecting Northern Ireland, the Junior Doctors union has called off the strike called for this week, after massive protests (April’s strike headline: Hospitals Cancel 12,500 Operations as Junior Doctors Strike). However, “October, November and December strikes will go ahead.”

Last year, The European Court of Justice ruled that Ireland was not violating labor law in assigning junior doctors 24-hour shifts:

Ireland Won’t be Fined Over 24-hour Shifts for Junior Doctors

I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure I’d have a lot of confidence in the judgement of a doctor working her 23rd hour.

Ever since the Apple ruling was announced, speculation has raged that the current coalition government might fall as a result of disagreement over whether to appeal the ruling or not.

Yet, today’s front page bombshell is not the government’s falling over Apple—but over the reneged promise to put a heart specialist lab in a hospital:

September 11:

I Will Rain Hell on This Government

A key government minister—elected by his constituency as the only means by which it is possible for them to get a needed diagnostic lab—is threatening to resign and bring the government down with him following the government’s refusal to put in the lab. The language he employs in his protest makes American politics look positively civil—and all over a matter most Americans can’t imagine dominating their national politics: one new lab for one hospital.

Rather gives pause to think: Is this really the system Americans want to emulate? Or do we simply believe, “It can’t happen here”?

Are you willing to bet your life on it?

Mary L. G. Theroux is Senior Vice President of the Independent Institute. Having received her A.B. in economics from Stanford University, she is Managing Director of Lightning Ventures, L.P., a San Francisco Bay Area investment firm, former Chairman of the Board of Advisors for the Salvation Army of both San Francisco and Alameda County, and Vice President of the C.S. Lewis Society of California.
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