Public healthcare deeply frustrating, says top cardiologist

A SENIOR cardiologist has spoken about the frustrations of working in the public healthcare system, which he described as “demoralising”.

Dr John Barton, consultant cardiologist at Portiuncula hospital in Ballinasloe, Co Galway, said the cost difficulties facing the health system would not be resolved until there was more integration between primary care and hospital care.

He was speaking at the latest in the series of Irish Times /Pfizer health forums held at Limerick Institute of Technology last night. Healthcare in Ireland: Good If You Can Afford It? was the title of last night’s discussion which was chaired by Fintan O’Toole of The Irish Times.

Speaking at the event, Dr Barton said it was “deeply frustrating” working in a system where people were expected to concentrate on balancing budgets instead of patient care.

“I’m working 20 years at it and it isn’t easy at the moment. It’s quite difficult, and to see what’s happening is deeply frustrating and there are a lot of inefficiencies,” he said.

Dr Barton said that Portiuncula hospital is required to save €7 million by the end of this year. One of the suggestions put forward, he said, was to discontinue offering chemotherapy services at Portiuncula, as this treatment was never included in the hospital’s budget.

“It is absolutely demoralising for people who are trying to provide a service and have that sort of thinking going on,” he said.

Among the speakers at last night’s event were Labour’s spokeswoman on health, Jan O’Sullivan; Prof Ciarán O’Neill, department of economics, NUI Galway; and Dr Donal Clancy, general manager, Quinn Healthcare. When asked, the vast majority of the audience said they had private health insurance.

Access to healthcare and a choice of consultant were among the main reasons people had private health insurance, Donal Clancy told the discussion.

Ms O’Sullivan said this was an indication that the system had to change.

Irish Times

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