Unity Leader: Fight Privatisation for a Healthy Ireland
Updated: May 27, 2020
Fight Privatisation for a Healthy Ireland
By Lynda Walker
The health services in Ireland have come under close scrutiny during the recent health crisis and the call for an all-Ireland health service has become more apparent. The synchronisation of security, health and welfare issues has not occurred because the North has acted on British government advice, the Republic of Ireland acted in advance of the North on the lockdown.
It stands to sense that in Ireland there should be harmonisation of the rules and regulations North and South to safeguard the population.
At its last congress the Communist Party of Ireland called for “a National Health Service for the whole of Ireland. This means restructuring the health service in the South and defence of the NHS in the North.” The policy also committed whole-heartedly “to unite our people in Northern Ireland and beyond on a basis of a programme against austerity, against the destruction of the NHS.”
In doing so there is the recognition that the NHS provides healthcare free at the point of entry for the majority.
Since Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister in 1979, private insurance and health care has increased. In 2012 the Health and Social Care Act was one of the Coalition government's most controversial pieces of legislation.
Andrew Lansley who introduced the Act said “claims that the government is attempting to privatise the NHS are ‘ludicrous scaremongering’.” This statement proved to be a total fabrication of the truth; John Pilger’s Dirty War TV programme, aired December 2019, exposed this.
However despite the growth of privatisation in the NHS there is no equivalence between the two health services North and South. Whilst in the short term working together in this crisis is vital, an all-Ireland model for health care should not be an amalgam of the NHS and HSE.
It is essential to have dialogue about the major differences in health service funding, ownership, structure, charges and about a tax system to fund health as well as reducing and then eliminating the private sector; the cleaning companies, private hospitals, private beds in hospitals and private General Practitioners (GP’s) and this would not be popular with the latter.
Some of the biggest issues in the Republic are GP, A&E, contraception and family planning service charges (free contraception is planned for 2021).
The abortion health service is new in the North and is relatively new in the South, but to date some problems have been identified there, services are more difficult to access in rural areas for a number of reasons, for example transport is more difficult especially when two visits are mandated, separated by a medically unnecessary three day waiting-period. Not all hospitals are providing this service yet (10 of 19 so far). Many GPs are not willing to provide and some towns and cities have no GP’s on the MyOptions database. In addition women from the North will be charged £450 if they want to go South for an abortion.
For there to be major changes we need collaboration in both jurisdictions with campaign groups, academics, politicians, the staff who work in both health services, and the trade unions who rep- resent the workers.
Examples of action here includes UNISON, who co-ordinate joint meetings with ambulance drivers North and South, and NIPSA who have produced ongoing research to expose and fight privatisation in the NHS.
But there is no time like the present as Prof Gabriel Skally said on a social media programme last week. “The current controversy about the actions being taken with respect to coronavirus illustrates why such harmonisation would be beneficial. I think there is an excellent opportunity to progress an agenda of harmonisation of health services north and south.
“I find the adherence by the assembly to the shambolic policies of Whitehall quite appalling and I don't understand why Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland do not take advantage of their powers under devolution and do a much better job for their people.”
And so it was to be welcomed that the North did not follow Johnson’s unlocking proposals this week.
Originally Printed in Unity Weekly Paper of the CPI