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Unity Leader: Hope or Austerity

Hope or Austerity

By Lynda Walker

Health continues to be the major topic of the day on a number of different levels: the deaths, the lock- down, going back to work and related safety aspects, how capitalists have made money and how they have lost money, and the ability of the health services to provide for its workers and for the patients.

One thing that is clear is the need to get rid of the private sector from our health services and coming out of this crisis we need to build campaigns to make this demand come true.

Some heath service unions have adopted policies against privatisation. Unison for example calls for the “abolition of the internal market in health and social care, and the costly and unnecessary commissioner/ provider split, to free resources; its replacement with a public health model delivered on NHS founding principles within the public sector... an end to outsourcing health services and jobs to the private sector, which has led to inadequate and increasingly precarious provision, and poorer pay for the workforce. “The health and well-being of the people should not be for profit.”

Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance has produced some impressive booklets to use in the fight against stealth of privateers. If any- thing would motivate you to want to transform the situation these would.

Unite in the Republic have recently produced a paper Hope or Austerity, which looks at “a Roadmap for a Better Fairer Ireland after the Pandemic.” It notes that “The government’s deal with the private hospitals has been hailed as the nationalisation of the health service and the creation of a single-tier service. It is only the ser- vice to the patient itself that has been

‘nationalised’. “In fact the physical assets remain in private hands while the service is made public,” the Irish government is renting the hospitals, the terms of which have not been made public.

There is similar situation in the north.

Unite calls for single-tier health and nursing home system in the Republic; and this month Sligo Council unanimously adopted a motion put by Declan Bree calling on the incoming Government to introduce a one-tier health system which will guarantee access on the basis of need not in- come. This could encourage the strategy put forward by the Sláintecare Action Plan, launched in the Republic 2019.

It proposed that from “here on in, consultants in public hospitals only carry out public work, specifying a “Sláintecare Consultant Contract” for new entrants. The de Buitléir report also published at the same time sends a clear message to government – “that the removal of private work from public hospitals can and should happen”

A former TD said: “The Sláintecare proposals were devised by an all-party

Committee, and have cross-party sup- port. “The Government has declared itself committed to their implementation, committing €42 million in Budget 2020 to progressing them. Whether the plan survives the Covid-19 crisis, how- ever, remains to be seen.”

These proposals need to be brought off the shelf and used to fight privatisation in Ireland and support of health workers is essential in such a fight. For example in an almost unanimous decision, Unison workers in Bradford Royal Infirmary (BRI) voted to go on indefinite strike because of the plan to transfer up to 600 workers out of the NHS into a private company called Bradford Healthcare Management Ltd. Two of the company’s directors, Steve Blenkinsop and Michael Quinlan, are senior managers at the BRI trust. A similar example of health workers in Wigan forced the NHS managers to withdraw similar plans.

Wrightington, Wigan, and Leigh NHS trust wanted to transfer 900 jobs to a wholly privately owned subsidiary company.

The need for co-operation and the organisation of an all Ireland health service, north and south is a further step forward for the working people of Ire- land and it is something that must go hand in hand with the fight to end privatisation. We want the best of both juris- dictions not the worst.

However an all Ireland perspective is not evident in the Sláintecare or de Buitléir proposals, and has yet to be built into trade union policy.

The online edition of Unity can be viewed here.

To subscribe to the hard copy please email: unitycpireland@gmail.com

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