Trolley waits and failing politics

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Sometimes the most horrible phrases become normalised. We hear them and because they’ve been headlines for so long, they don’t seem to shock us.

The prime example springing to mind this week: ‘People on trolleys.’

For most of this week, news agencies have kept on top of the figures of those left without a bed as hospitals north and south of the border struggle to cope.

When you hear that a person is on a trolley - for hours and hours, you don’t actually process that information.

You might think you do, but you don’t.

You think it’s a pretty dire situation for about five seconds, and then your attention is grabbed by the next news item.

When you’re with that person on a trolley it’s a very different story.

I remember working on a story a few years ago where a 76-year-old man had sat all day and all night holding the hand of his desperately frail wife who was left on a hospital trolley.

It had broken his heart, he said, to have been unable to help her and watch her so uncomfortable in so much pain.

That was around five years ago. Nothing has changed since then except the numbers, and they’ve changed for the worse.

What has also remained the same is the absolute failure of those in power to do anything whatsoever about it.

In the South Health Minister Leo Varadkar was on holiday in Miami while 600 people waited on trolleys.

With the trolley wait at an all time high the crisis was described as a national emergency. The Health Minister was unavailable for comment.

I’m the first person to say that everyone’s entitled to a holiday, but when you’re in charge of the health of a nation, and the buck stops with you, you should be at the very forefront of the crisis, taking whatever action is necessary to resolve things and make things better for those citizens who elected you.

What you should not be is too spineless to take the situation in hand.

Mind you, this is the same government minister who said it wouldn’t be appropriate for him to intervene in a case where doctors refused to switch off the life support machine of a brain dead woman because she was pregnant (in the early stages of pregnancy).

North is the same as the south. The health system is failing people because our entire system of government is a failure. It’s a carousel of career politicians most of whom, when they are in the system, get too comfortable too quickly to ever want to rock the boat in the meaningful way.

There’s no passion to make a difference or bring change.

Meanwhile, there are still people on trolleys.