The humble public meeting seems to be flavour of the month with our politicians and god knows I’ve been to quiet a few.
Lucinda Creighton had the Future of the Irish economy. Who knew she had all the answers, eh? Mary Mitchell O’Connor covered dementia, as did Deirdre Heney. Maria Bailey informed us about migraines. John Lyons discussed the living wage. And of course let us not forget, the one and only Ruth Coppinger is now an expert on the housing crisis.
But this week I went to a different sort of public meeting. Ok it wasn’t actually that different to the others. Yes, we filed into the back of a GAA club and, as is the norm, you could have fit all of us into a lift, such is the turnout at these things. Most of the attendees look like they could be heading for the pearly gates, despite Power’s popularity with the under 25s.
This was a public meeting organised by Senator Averil Power. You might remember her as one of the only female Fianna Fáilers. She left the party because she felt they weren’t making enough effort for May’s marriage equality referendum.
Before you start, no I’m not a member of Fíanna Fáil, or any political party for that matter. But I was genuinely impressed by Power and the content of her public meeting.
Politician by day and white collar boxer by night, it can be said that Power packs a punch. She came into the meeting fired up and ready for action.
It was the subject matter of this meeting rather than Power herself that interested me. Because, if like me, you live in North Dublin or in Dublin’s inner city you’ve probably crossed the threshold of Beaumont hospital Emergency Department at some point.
If you have, you will appreciate and I mean this in no disrespect to the staff that work there, that Beaumont ED is quite frankly a kip. I personally would rather be driven to Cork then to up there on a Friday evening.
The hospital opened its doors in 1987 and, bar what I’m presuming is the odd lick of paint, has barely changed since.
Beaumont is consistently one of the most overcrowded hospitals in the country at the times there have been more than 46 people on trolleys and chairs.
Freed from the shackles of Fíanna Fáil, the Dublin Bay North candidate has taken it upon herself to advocate for a new emergency department for an area of Dublin that currently has 1 GP for every 3,500 people, one of the worst ratios in the country.
Power employed the services of Dr. Emily O’Connor of the Irish Association for Emergency Medicine to add muscle to her might.
Dr O’Connor say there are an extra 300 deaths in our acute sector because of the wait for beds. She also said the situation is so dire in some ED’s that “there is one toilet between 40 inpatients”.
They say every candidate needs an issue and by god has Power found hers.
While some would say its rather clever of her, others would say she should leave well alone. If Mary Harney, James Reilly and Leo Varadkar couldn’t solve the problems of the creaking ED’s of Beaumont and other such hospitals around the country, how can she?
Averil Power is never one to shy away from challenge, as she proved with her one woman crusade within Fíanna Fáil in support of marriage equality.
She wants a new A&E for Beaumont and she says, if elected, she will lobby for one in the lower chamber.
While I can’t vouch for the validity of her claim, it is certainly an admirable one.
Despite the extent of the problem in Beaumont there were barely 25 people at the meeting.
If one was to organise a public meeting entitled (insert name of town) says no to water charges/local property tax, you would probably need to procure the local stadium.
We saw it last year when hundreds and thousands of young people turned out across the country for protests in opposition to the charges.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. The public has clearly spoken. They would rather a broken health system as long as they can save the extra few hundred euro a year.
After all, I’m not sick, therefore what’s in it for me? And that’s all well and good until your elderly ailing mother spends the weekend on a trolley or worse a chair.
Personally, I think when people leave Emergency Departments they become inflicted with a case of collective amnesia about what they just lived through.