POLISHED, presentable, and eloquent… three words that might easily sum up Stephen Donnelly.
And our Health Secretary brought all three of those qualities into a meeting the other day of his Fianna Fáil parliamentary party, where its TDs and senators gather to hear the latest from the seat of Government and mull over strategies.
Mr Donnelly had been summoned to present an update on his department’s latest initiatives and progress, and to give an overview of the direction our health system is heading.
Well, hunky dory isn’t the word for his reported remarks.
The Department of Health is toiling tirelessly to meet all its challenges, and to provide a healthcare system that will be the envy of the world – with Mr Donnelly toiling sway tirelessly at the helm – was the gist of his feedback.
“Apparently, a few Fianna Fáil apparatchik came close to blushing, such was the top-spin given to the performance of our health service as it strives to recover from two years of pandemic.
Polished, presentable, and eloquent…
But let me tell you, they were not the three words I would have chosen to describe our Health Minister that very same day, on the back of a phone call I received regarding my son’s long wait for dental treatment in the public system.
Pitiful, under-performing, and delusional more like – if Mr Donnelly really believes he is doing a good job as Minister as he blows his own trumpet in a fanfare to his party colleagues.
As for three words to describe our health system: How about failing, or chaotic, or over-burdened? And that is putting it politely.
On the day Mr Donnelly was holding forth on his brilliant work, I received a phone call in the long-running saga of my son’s dental issue. It was autumn, 2019, when he entered the system and joined a queue for an assessment.
The phone call was to inform me that he should, all being well, receive an appointment for his assessment in the summer – nearly three years after registering.
But wait, this was merely the assessment. What, I tentatively enquired, was the waiting time for the actual orthodontic treatment that may be deemed necessary?
Ah, well, that could be as much as another five years…
Yes, five years, the length of a Dáil term, ironically.
“That means there is a queue of eight years for a child to receive dental care in the public health system – by which time many of those children will be adults.
For a youngster who may require a brace, for instance, and who is at a self-conscious age, this is a disgraceful delay.
My son is trapped in a circle of hell along with thousands of others in the Cork/Kerry region alone, and although Covid has clearly played a part in these waiting times, it cannot be wholly blamed for the faults.
We all know the long delays and waits, the interminable queues, the unwritten nod-and-wink that tries to force everyone into the private system where they pay through the nose, have been with us for years – decades even.