Ireland's Health Divide

Dr Eva Orsmond has produced a shocked documentary for RTE on Ireland’s Health Divide.



Dr Eva Orsmond has produced a shocked documentary for RTE on Ireland’s Health Divide. She has highlighted a number of indisputable facts:

• That a person born into a lower socio-economic group has, on average, four years less to live than someone from an upper professional group

• That there are higher rates of lung, stomach and cervical cancers in deprived areas and lower chances of survival

• That your health is directly affected by your social class. 95% of those in the top social class enjoy good health but only 75% of those in the lowest social class do.

The real scandal is that these facts have been known for some time but the political establishment have deliberately devised health policies with exacerbates rather than reduces the health divide. There have no strategy to increase the life expectancy of the poorest groups.

The reason is that Ireland’s health system is based on encouraging some to profit from human misery.

The two tier health system frightens a large section of people into taking out private health insurance. As a result they get quicker access to diagnosis and treatments than the rest of the population.

Private health insurance is subsidised by tax breaks and those who pay the highest rates to get access to the Blackrock clinic and other private hospitals get the highest tax breaks.

Ireland is the only country in the EU that does not provide access to primary care as a right. If you do not have a medical card you must pay about €60 to visit a doctor. The result is that many defer their visits – making it more costly to treat their illness later.

GPs are less likely to set up a business in deprived areas as they will have more patients with a greater number of problems to deal with.

If we want to tackle the health divide, we have to tackle poverty itself. But even before that project is completed, the government could take some practical steps.

*It could invest in a free, not for profit primary care system with a focus on targeting areas with the highest rate of ill-health.

* It could create a one tier National Health System where speedy access to treatment is not dependent on private insurance.

*It could stop all subsidies to for-profit companies and divert its resources into tackling the health divide.

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