OPINION: Incompetence that knows no bounds

September 2nd, 2019 11:40 AM

By Southern Star Team

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Now weekly scandals have had as much effect on our government as a summer shower on a duck's back

ANOTHER week, another scandal!

We’ve had the Hepatitis C scandal, the withholding of baby organs without parental consent scandal and, of course, the appalling cervical cancer scandals. Not even in a Third World banana-republic would a government pile up for itself such a litany of disasters but, with our lot, incompetence knows no bounds.

And still the wonder grows how this government manages to stay in power. Certainly outrageous political behaviour and weekly scandals have had as much effect on it as a summer shower on a duck’s back. 

The CervicalCheck controversy is a case in point. A free smear test availed of by women between 25 and 60 years, was carried out in Dublin and the US.  A Limerick woman, Vicky Phelan, was told she did not have cancer, but three years later she was diagnosed with the illness. As a result, the cases of hundreds of other women had to be reviewed.

The scheme was a shambles – a situation that prompted these words of wisdom from Health Minister Harris: he did not have full confidence in the screening programme but he did have confidence in the screening service – a which did not inspire much trust in him from women who had taken the test.

Then there was the response from an eminent public health doctor, who investigated the CervicalCheck controversy. He admitted he could not find ‘any grace or compassion’ anywhere and went on to say that error had been converted into injustice and from there into ‘financial remedy’(compo); but that did not ‘do the job’!

Importantly, no government politico carried the can for a calamity that brought lasting distress and loss to many families. Instead Harris, Varadkar and the chums bunkered down, took the flak and weathered the opprobrium they deserved.

In a recent throwaway comment by Health Minister Harris, government heartlessness was plain to see. He said that following a ‘glitch’ in a US lab, the fact that only 52 out of 800 women tested positive for HPV following CervicalCheck retests was ‘good news.’ 

Immediately, former Sinn Féin deputy, Peadar Tóibín, tore strips off the Minister, reminding him that his statistic referred to 52 ‘individual women’ with ‘individual families’ and, for these unfortunate people, a situation of ‘serious fear and serious heartache’ now prevailed. There was nothing ‘good’ about a person having HPV, he said.


Do not disturb

The CervicalCheck debacle is bad enough, but more problems are on the way. According to the Indo-Sindo, about half of the country’s GP practices are operating at maximum capacity and cannot take new patients. The newspaper warned that such a situation will make it harder for those without a GP to seek medical assistance when ill, particularly since the ESRI (Economic and Social Research Institute) has warned that the lack of doctors will affect patient care, lead to congested waiting rooms and create backlogs in hospital emergency rooms. 

But, even though the country has a chronic GP shortage and Fianna Fáil claims the government is treating doctors with contempt, Vlad has one eye fixed on a general election and intends expanding the ‘free’ GP service.

He asserts that its extension to the over-70s already has been a success. But, although old crocks no longer have to cross the palm of the medicine man with sixty euros, other methods have been devised to gouge cash from them.

For instance, a driving licence medical examination (in many cases just a signature) costs €30; a blood test … €10; another €10 for both private and medical card patients to cover the cost of ‘courier fees’; a tenner for a letter in support of applications for services under the Social Welfare Act, school attendance notes, creche reports; and the same for sports medicals/reports.

The Irish Medical Organisation – a sort of doctors’ trade union – argues that there are a number of additional services provided by medics which are not covered by the agreement between the State and GPs.  


Sleep tight

Good news for Haulbowline matelots who, as everyone knows, have been abandoning the Naval Service (like hamsters fleeing a sinking ship) because of poor pay, boredom and lousy accommodation. But relief is on the way.

To clamours of approval – well, some – the Department of Defence has promised to convert an empty barracks at the naval base into a sleeping quarters. Known as Block 8, this soon-to-be lavishly refurbished building is almost 200 years old.

Just the place for a good night’s sleep. And, against the background of the many maritime controversies of recent months, let’s not forget that top quality shut-eye suspends consciousness and makes a big difference to a sailor’s quality of life! After all, inactivity of the nervous system, closed eyes, and relaxed muscles sometimes can be the basic ingredients of good seamanship.

Indeed matelots are urged to pursue a relaxing bedtime ritual of no anxiety or excitement, no foghorns and no piercing whistles, although a perusal of the Beano’s section on nautical jokes is permissible and can be conducive to a good night’s sleep.

Jokes such as these: What lies at the bottom of the sea and twitches? A nervous wreck!!!

What is the worst vegetable to bring on a ship?  A leek!  (You’re fired – Ed)


Marino Point concern

The Port of Cork has not been earning many plaudits because of the approach it’s taking towards Cobh people who are resisting the Port’s attempt to prohibit access to the Deep Water Quay, the location where liners berth. Locals say a public right of way exists.  The multi-million Port Company claims such is not the case.

To make matters worse, the Port of  Cork looks as if it could be facing another public controversy at Marino Point, which is a few miles up the road from Cobh and directly across from Passage West.

The Port plans to develop the 114-acre Irish Fertiliser Site at Marino Point for the agri-feed and fertiliser industries. County councillors from Cobh and Passage West want to know the details and if what’s on the cards will lower the quality of life of their constituents.  So far they haven’t had much success, and what the Port has up its sleeve is a mystery.

Happily, that’s to change. Two public meetings will take place: one on September 4th at Marino Point and the other on September 5th at Passage West GAA Club.

Let’s hope that at these meetings the Port will be more frank and open than they’ve been in Cobh where its antics have been a public relations disaster.

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