Call for a real debate on the slide towards turning Health Care into a profit-making industry

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JCFJ Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice

14 December 2007

For Immediate Release

Jesuit Centre again calls for a real debate on the slide towards turning health care a profit-making industry

The publication today of a new health bill which among other things will enable the proposed co-location of a private hospitals on the grounds of St James’s Hospital and Beaumont Hospital to go ahead, has again drawn attention to this Government’s seeming determination to reshape Irish health care in the direction of a private, for-profit system, says the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice in a statement issued today. 

Fr Tony O’Riordan SJ, the Centre’s Director, pointed out that in a policy paper issued jointly with the Adelaide Hospital Society in June this year the Centre agued that co-location would entrench the existing two-tier system of hospital care and make it all the more difficult in the future to bring about change in that system. He said: ‘As we preciously stated, the policy of co-location sends out a powerful message that the Government actively supports and promotes a two-tier system of hospital care. Such a system is a threat to the values of care and justice which we believe should the basis for health care provision.’ 

The policy of co-location is just one example of the increasing privatisation that is taking place in the Irish health service. In an article in the recent issue of the Centre’s journal, Working Notes, Margaret Burns, Social Policy Officer, suggests that the exposé of the deficiencies of the US for-profit health system in the Michael Moore film, Sicko, should serve as a warning as to what happens when a country ‘ends up having a health industry rather than a health service’.

She says: ‘It would not be true to say that the Irish health system is inching towards an American-style for-profit system: no, it is going there in giant strides.’ She points out: ‘This development has occurred steadily, and stealthily, with no substantial public debate, no Green Paper issued to indicate the change in policy, and no honest admission that the 2001 Health Strategy, which promised a quite different approach, is no longer national policy.’

Burns also notes out that unlike many European countries, Ireland has never came to a point where was prepared to make a commitment to devise a health care system premised on treating people on the basis of need, not ability to pay. ‘The creation of such a system would require a paradigm shift, so that we would come to see health care as a fundamental human right held equally by all people – one not qualified by income or determined by which part of the country a person happened to live in’, she says.

She concludes by asking: ‘Is it not incongruous that, Ireland, a country that relishes its economic prosperity gained over the past decade, and that is proud to be a republic should tolerate what is happening in its health service? For not only do we seem to be resolutely hanging onto a system that is designed to treat people unequally – that is, in essence, a twenty-first century embodiment of a nineteenth century Poor Law mentality – but we seem increasingly willing to turn what should be a service that cares for people when they are at their most vulnerable into a profit-making industry.’

For further information or for interviews, please contact:

Margaret Burns, Social Policy Officer, Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice,
01-855 6814; 086 328 5164

Fr Tony O’Riordan SJ, Director of the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice, 
01-855 6814; 087 928 6945

Posted in Health Policy News

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