OUR health services are still in a very unhealthy state despite the fact that the Minister for Health is a doctor and should be an expert on health, health issues and what a proper health service should be about.
This year over 550 health care beds will close across the country with savings of €700 million. In reality, will we have €700 million to spend in other areas of health care or will it just disappear down another black hole? Statistics over the past 10 years show any government department savings incurred never seem to show up as a positive move in any accounts.
Some 550 beds go in one year. So what’s the plan to accommodate 550 people especially old and infirm individuals who will have nowhere to go? The Minister of State with responsibility for disability, mental health and older people said the plan did not look as bleak as it did before Christmas, which is less than 30 days ago.
Extra money has been allocated but there is no mention of how it will be spent. Will carers look after people at home? Is there a more efficient plan being put in place or will there be no plan and the money saved be used to pay down debt to the EU?
Plans are also afoot to close down psychiatric services at the 49-bed acute psychiatric unit in Clonmel at a time when psychiatric help and services were never more needed due to our extraordinary suicide rate. Many unfortunate people need a psychiatric and counselling service more than ever before.
With mountains of debts on property and household costs some people’s lives have been turned upside down. In the past three months I attended the funerals of four people who took their own lives. In each case we were all wondering why they did it. They all seemed to have few worries that showed on the surface.
Nobody can usually pinpoint why people take their own lives. The pressures of modern living and modern debt resulting in people not being able to take charge of their responsibilities must play a big part. Our suicide rates are astronomically high compared to some of the other countries in the EU and we seem to be helpless when it comes to giving people real, lasting help and counselling to curtail it.
It’s a serious situation that doesn’t seem to be taken seriously by our health agencies. This may be due to the fact that it may be difficult to get the information and facts that are needed to help people. Many insurance companies fail to pay out insurance to families of people who take their own lives.
Is it not time that we recognised it as an illness and a serious health issue that needs to be addressed? If our psychiatric services are cut we need a replacement to deal with the knock-on effect from such a move. Help lines on their own can only do so much. Awareness groups are limited in what they can do and in the areas they can cover. We were led to believe over the Celtic Tiger era that we never had it so good. But money doesn’t always make for a happy life. Our ancestors had little money. They survived because they had the art of survival, both financially and mentally. Their lives were seldom overtaken by the negative issues in life.
Their neighbours and friends were always close by for help and advice. They lived a very public life, meeting people on the roadside, in the fields or at Mass. Unhealthy symptoms usually showed at an early stage and help was often available fast. We may not agree with our archaic methods of mental health care in those days, yet they were similar to those in other developed countries in the world at the time.
Nowadays a lot of people are vulnerable to the savings and thinking of ministers and government officials. Older people are fearful and vulnerable to the effects of these savings. Their sons and daughters may be fearful as they may not be in a position to look after them due to work or family commitments.
For active, healthy older people these issues may seldom enter their minds because they are otherwise engaged in a different lifestyle. For all of us we may grow old, die young or be dependant on someone else at some stage in our lives. The fear our grandparents had of ending up in the county home may be history. Now many of the old county homes around the country are now in danger of closing despite the fact that there is a queue of people who would relish the thought of being looked after in the same old style, quality care that these homes give today.We need to look at what our people’s needs are so that old people shouldn’t have to be afraid of tomorrow. Money and savings on these vital services should be debated and discussed but not used as a weapon against the most vulnerable people in society who may not always be in the position to speak out. How about the Minister for Health putting plan B in place before he decides to scrap plan A?