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OPINION: Insulting our intelligence

While our elected representatives find excuses not to govern, our local health service is being stripped bare. It’s time we started taking them to task, writes Herald Editor Maurice Kennedy
 

HOT AND HEAVY… local MP Michelle Gildernew came under fire as emotions ran high during the meeting on the future of SWAH at the Lakeland Forum on Monday night. Pic: Andrew Paton

 
MAYBE it will take something as invaluable as our health service to knock our heads together, put at least some of our differences aside, and start putting people before politics.
As our local health service lurches from one crisis to the next it is all too easy to blame the politicians. But let’s be brutally honest here: we voted for them and we knew what we were getting, so in a sense most of us share some of the responsibility for the political chaos that is seriously damaging our increasingly precarious NHS.
That said, there is now an absolute onus on our politicians to show leadership and do the right thing. Grandstanding and banging on with half-hearted soundbites about Tory austerity is an insult to our intelligence. When Michelle O’Neill was short-lived health minister she had only started to grapple with ‘sustainability and transformation’, in other words the rationalisation of the health service that trusts across the UK are dealing with; so clearly there was a realisation that issues of resources and funding had to and have to be faced up to. 
It is simply disingenuous and dishonest to blame the British government. These are issues we as a society need to deal with and elected representatives should be playing a crucial role in ensuring that the interests of the people they claim to represent are upheld. 
With something as critical as the future of our health service there is no value in hurling on the ditch.
The key point is this: whatever the reasons for refusing to enter government – and increasingly these reasons are looking spurious –  the two main parties are infinitely more effective in shaping our health service and saving vital services in government than standing on the sidelines.
The questions then is, what are their priorities? The Irish Language Act, or RHI, or Arlene Foster standing down? Or the people whose lives may be lost as a direct consequence of the cuts to services that are likely to be railroaded through in the absence of proper political discourse. 
It’s about priorities, and the choice is theirs – and yours.
The thousands of people who have turned out at recent meetings on the future of services at SWAH have sent out a clear message, not just to the Western Trust and the Department of Health, but, more importantly, to our elected representatives, that we’ve had enough of the shameful political posturing of recent months.
And the very real threat hanging over our wonderful local hospital  should concentrate all our minds about the consequences of political intransigence. There is a right and a wrong in all this and the right thing, the courageous thing to do, is to put the health and well-being of our people, be they newly born babies or stroke victims or the elderly, before selfish, sectional interests. And much as we would like to, we can’t leave all the blame at the door of the politicians. We voted for them; now we need to start holding them accountable for their part in this unholy mess.
 
 

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Consultants based at Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry may not be willing to travel to Fermanagh, according to a union...

Around 3,000 responses to the consultation survey were received from the Fermanagh Save our Services lobby group.

The Department of Health has been allocated the funds for health and social care.

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