Fighting for Decent Health Care

On Saturday 27 January the Still Waiting Campaign held a major conference in Liberty Hall in Dublin. The Campaign aims to increase hospital beds, restore lost services, and work towards a single-tier health system. Attended by over eighty delegates the conference heard from a number of campaign groups, political organisations and trade unions including Enough is Enough, the Irish Patients’ Association, People Before Profit and SIPTU and other unions Stephen McMahon of the Irish Patients' Association said that 300 people a year were dying due to overcrowding. Socialist Worker interviewed the Still Waiting Campaign Coordinator, Cyril Brennan

Socialist Worker

Fighting for Decent Health Care

 SW: What inspired you to get involved in a health campaign?

As a health care worker I always had an interest in health and caring for people, and when you see what has become of the health service during the years of austerity and the move towards private health care, and the effects it is having on the people we care for; that’s what initially inspired me to get involved in a health campaign. The fact I joined the health  service to care and help people and now this is being utilised to increase profits is a major concern to me.

SW: What do you think of the government review of hospital bed capacity recommendations for 9000 more beds?

The recent capacity recommendations of 9000 beds has come as no surprise. The review only confirms what doctors and medical staff have been continuously saying; the reality is that the Irish health service only has 2.8 beds per 1000 people where the OECD average is 4.3 per 1,000. We continually hear more beds isn’t the answer that it’s an efficiency problem, but with figures for admissions increasing with over 99,000 people waiting to be admitted to a hospital bed in 2017, efficiency is clearly not the issue.

SW: What role do you think the health unions could play in supporting the campaign?

The health unions are a massive asset to the campaign; this is the first time we have seen all health unions, health workers, patients and political activists coming together on a common platform to build a campaign to seek meaningful reform in our health service. They have the experience and knowledge representing all grades of staff on the frontlines.

 SW: Staffing shortages and burnout seem common today; what can the campaign do to address those issues?

The Still Waiting campaign is calling for five key objectives to improve the health service, which include increase bed capacity, increase frontline staff, a not for profit home help service, restoration of services, and move towards a national health service. Health workers want to be able to care for the service users to the best of their ability and we believe we have some of the best staff any health service could want. We now need to be able to provide the services and facilities to reflect this. The campaign will also be a beacon of hope to those who are leaving the service as it will send a strong message that it can’t and won’t continue

 SW: Slaintecare is calling for an end to private medicine in public hospitals and an increase in beds and staff; does the campaign support it and do you have any concerns about slaintecare?

We do support the Slaintecare document as it offers a direction towards a single tier health system. However, we would have major concerns about how the government plans to implement it. The fear is the government will try to outsource some of the proposals to the private sector similar to the private home help providers. Although it outlines a single tier health care system , the government will use fiscal limits as an excuse to continue to push private providers in the community setting. We have seen the government’s inability to implement other documents such as the vision for change document. Therefore we need a campaign to hold the government accountable as we don’t want to be in a situation in 10 years’ time that only 40% of the document is implemented and the fundamental point of a single tier health system is not achieved.

 SW:What would you like people to do to support the Still Waiting campaign?

We are currently building the campaign with our first national conference in Liberty Hall on January 27thalongside the major health unions, we hope to follow this with regional meetings and if people want to keep up to date with the campaign, they can email us at We also want all health campaigns to join together for a national demonstration in the near future and we’d ask people to help us build a massive civic health movement in Ireland. 

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