I wrote recently that the Health Executive Service (HSE) was a diseased, out of control monster created by and strongly defended by cowardly and incompetent politicians. My analysis has been confirmed by the incredible events of recent days.
A democratically elected public representative has been banned from entering a hospital by an anonymous HSE manager and that same organisation has launched a campaign, with the full support of cowardly politicians, to silence a media outlet that dares to question its activities.
Labour TD Joe Costello is an extremely rare creature, an Irish politician who actually possesses and acts on conviction. Every Saturday for the last four years he and a group of supporters have maintained a presence outside the Mater Hospital in Dublin in protest over the Third World conditions in the A & E Department (Drivetime, 7th item).
As part of his protest Deputy Costello visits the staff and patients of the A & E Department to monitor and inform himself on the situation. This is a perfectly legitimate and necessary activity in a functional democracy but last week Deputy Costello was officially barred from entering the hospital.
This is an extremely serious situation – a lawfully elected public representative has been barred from associating with a group of citizens by a faceless and unaccountable bureaucrat.
In addition to preventing elected representatives from serving the people the HSE has also become involved in attempts to control the media and, incredibly, telling politicians what media outlet they can or cannot speak on.
The HSE has threatened to withdraw advertising from Newstalk 106 because of the station’s policy of ringing the HSE directly to address what the station describes as “horror stories from victims of health service mismanagement, contempt and incompetence.”(Irish Examiner).
A spokesperson for the HSE said:
“In light of staff members being intimidated, bullied and humiliated by Newstalk live on air we are withdrawing co-operation by not providing ministers, press releases and advertising. We believe this is all down to ratings.”
‘We are not providing ministers’??? The bureaucrats in the HSE have decided that they have the power to control the actions of politicians.
‘We believe this is all down to ratings.’??? Since when did faceless bureaucrats, allegedly in charge of health, give themselves the power to sit in judgement on the activities of media outlets?
In reality, their arrogant confidence is justified. It seems that Government ministers are only too happy to allow these faceless and arrogant bureaucrats to trample all over the most basic principles of a functional democracy. The undemocratic imposition of draconian restrictions on free speech means that these cowardly politicians don’t have to answer questions themselves.
While Deputy Costello’s actions deserve the highest praise his handling of the matter requires some comment. He was approached by an unidentified and hostile woman who told him he shouldn’t be in the hospital. He didn’t demand identification and quietly left the hospital.
Apparently, this woman was head of operations at the hospital or represented that office. He has said he intends continuing his protest and has written to head of HSE, Prof. Drumm, expressing his disappointment with the attitude of head of operations at the hospital.
Here’s what should have happened. Deputy Costello should have demanded that this hostile woman identify herself. He should have refused to leave the hospital until he was good and ready.
He should have informed this hostile bureaucrat that as an elected representative of the people he far outranks any official or public servant.
He should not be timidly writing to Prof. Drumm expressing disappointment, he should be writing in passionate anger outlining to the Prof. his plans for dramatically stepping up his campaign outside the hospital.
In effect, the Irish health service has been taken over by unaccountable arrogant and grossly overpaid bureaucrats and public relations companies. Politicians have lost control; they are literally standing outside hospitals waiting for permission to enter.
This grotesque and bizarre state of affairs is bordering on how things are done in Zimbabwe and is resulting in massive suffering for Irish people, in some case even death.
It is long past time that these people were taken out and if necessary put in handcuffs.
All political parties
Joe Costello TD