It was a glorious day at Crumlin Children’s Hospital recently, when staff and patients were honoured by an impromptu visit from Her Serene Highness the Princess Rathgar herself:
“A high-profile Government TD has admitted she was embarrassed to witness the overflowing A&E in Crumlin Children’s Hospital when she attended at the weekend with her sick child.
In a startling admission, Fine Gael backbencher Kate O’Connell described the state of the emergency department as “unacceptable”.
She said she was so embarrassed, she hoped nobody there would recognise her as a politician.
Ms O’Connell waited eight hours before “giving up” and bringing home her child, who was the “least sick” there.”
Of course, in this country, a TD can’t really be blamed for the state of the health service. Everyone knows that their job is to get you planning permission, and to fix the potholes, and to help you with your passport. If you want motions about the health service passed, you go to your local county council, who are experts at it.
I suppose we should, however grudgingly, commend Her Highness for having the grace and magnanimity to recognise that life for the sick plebs under her Government is less than ideal. That her very close and dear friend, the Minister for Health, is largely responsible for this mess seems to have passed her by.
What’s more striking is the absolute belief that our politicians – and this is not confined by any means to Deputy O’Connell – that the awful state of the health service has anything to do with them. The Deputy, of course, raised the findings of her fact-finding mission at a meeting of the health committee, on which she has sat now for several years. Apparently, in all of that time, not once did she consider that it might be a good idea for a senior politician to visit a busy A&E just to observe the chaos there. What are we paying her for, exactly? Imagine if the Minister for Defence had never visited an army barracks – we’d think it was absurd. And yet, here we are.
That’s not to say that the Deputy hasn’t had priorities in health, of course. She was and remains a leading light in the movement to increase access to abortion and contraception, and her personal priorities have consistently been in relation to driving that agenda. And that’s fine – it’s a free country, and people have, for some reason, elected her. But focusing narrowly on one agenda has consequences for the rest of the health service.
It’s just a real and genuine pity that it took an illness, which we hope was not severe, in her own family for her to realise that.