Open letter calling for an All-Ireland National Health Service

Covid 19 made abundantly clear that our existing health services needed radical transformation to cope with the pandemic. Insufficient hospital bed capacity, too few intensive care beds, too few hospital nurses and staff, glaring structural defects accumulated over decades, as well as two separate health services on an island of 6.6 million inhabitants, were shown up as markedly inadequate.

The lack of PPE and other public health resources for testing, contact tracing and protecting older people in nursing homes or health and social care workers arose from the absence of a coordinated, efficient national health service.

The situation required the enactment of measures which would have been unthinkable pre-Covid 19. The budget of the Health Service Executive was expanded by €1 billion and the recruitment embargo on nurses and other key staff lifted. North and South, agreements were secured with private hospitals that they would temporarily operate as public hospitals, open to both Covid 19 and non-Covid 19 patients.

In the South, patients with Covid-19 are being treated as public patients in what the caretaker Fine Gael government itself has lauded as a single national hospital service with no private-public distinction.

If the extension of public healthcare can happen in a pandemic, why not also in ‘normal’ health crisis times? Why can it not be used to address the waiting lists of at least 700,000 in the South, 300,000 in the North? To address the totally inadequate step- down facilities or the lack of home care support? Or to enable everyone to have free access to GPs?

The measures taken have shown that a comprehensive public health service is both possible and indispensable for providing healthcare to all when they need it. However, the Dublin government’s deal with the private hospitals, while a welcome step of making private hospitals public, is also costing the public purse €115 million a month. This continues the policy of shoring up the private sector with public money, a policy which has been shown in the North to undermine the ability of the NHS to provide timely cradle to grave treatment, free at the point of use.

We call for the making public of private hospitals to be extended to bring these under full public control permanently. This would lay the foundation of an All-Ireland National Health Service free at the point of delivery and fit for the health needs of our population in the 21st century.

The campaign for an All-Ireland National Health Service is based upon the following principles:

o All hospitals under public control
o Increased pay and an enhanced career structure for nurses and all health and social care workers.
o For publicly funded Primary Care that includes mental health support, physiotherapy, speech therapy etc.
o For an integrated Health and Social Care service
o The establishments of a national state pharmaceutical company for essential medicines o The exclusion of private practice and fees from public hospitals

After this crisis, there are likely to be others. There will also be a backlog of untreated patients which will put even greater strain on our health services, North and South. In this situation the creation of an Al Ireland National Health Service is more urgent than ever. Post Covid 19 there can be no going back.

Download letter below

Open letter for an All-Ireland NHS 12 5 headed