Clinical analysis of our health service

Posted in Book by saraburke on August 24, 2009

A review of ‘Irish Apartheid’ appeared in the Sunday Business Post on 16 August 2009 by Orla Hardiman. 

The Irish healthcare system is dysfunctional, disorganised, fragmented and, for the average citizen, difficult to navigate. It comprises an unusual blend of public and private care, requiring payment at the point of entry for 70 per cent of citizens, but free care for all citizens in the public hospitals.

A parallel structure of private fee-for-service exists in the hospital setting, some of which is embedded into the public hospital system, with an increasing number of standalone, ‘for-profit’ healthcare institutions.

Sara Burke’s book is the latest in a series of publications on Irish healthcare that have been written by female journalists with a strong sense of social justice – two well worth investigating are Marie O’Connor’s 2007 book Emergency, and Maev-Ann Wren’s 2006 offering How Ireland Cares, co-written with Prof ADale Tussing.

This book offers the reader an excellent opportunity to pick up where Wren and Tussing left off. In a breezy and readable style, Burke – a journalist and health policy analyst – sketches out the political and industrial minefield that is the Irish healthcare system. In doing so, her book provides a depressingly compelling reiteration of a litany of missed opportunities, cynical political manoeuvring, leadership errors and administrative ineptitude. (more…)


Revealing the illness within

Posted in Book by saraburke on July 11, 2009

Here is a review of Irish Apartheid by John Crown, which appeared in Saturday’s Irish Times 

THE CENTRAL problems of the Irish health system are that it is unequal, inefficient and of generally mediocre quality. In her excellent, insightful, and comprehensively researched book, Irish Apartheid: Healthcare Inequality in Ireland , journalist Sara Burke focuses on the first of these ills, and explains the forces, both historical and contemporary, which have given us such a strangely configured, irrational and ultimately unfair health delivery system.

Right from the start, Burke grabs the reader’s attention. She uses the tragic story of Susie Long, told in that brave woman’s own poignantly eloquent words on the Joe Duffy Show , to set the scene for the detailed analysis which follows. Long was the young mother whose cancer had been allowed to progress to an incurable state, while she languished seven months on a public hospital waiting list for what should have been an urgent, and in truth, utterly routine diagnostic test. In her interview she told the nation that this test was available promptly to privately insured patients, illustrating the grotesque unfairness at the heart of the Irish health system.

Yet, Burke does not fall into the trap of letting emotional anecdote substitute for reasoned argument. She delivers rationally constructed and dispassionately delivered knockout blows with a devastating business-like accuracy. (more…)

Letters in the Irish Times, 6 July 2009

Posted in Book by saraburke on July 5, 2009

Madam, – The central tenet of Sara Burke’s article (Opinion, July 27th ) and indeed her excellent book is that there has been serious investment in the private for-profit health sector through the provision of tax relief, the national treatment purchase scheme etc. This investment has increased while the public health sector is slowly undermined. The investment is without any rigorous analysis of outcomes, benefits for users or value for money. Does Mr Stewart (July 1st) want Ms Burke to draw a diagram if he is confused? – Yours, etc,

GERARD DOYLE, Hazelbourne, Waterford. 

Madam, – Norman Stewart’s letter (July 1st) condemning Sara Burke’s excellent article (Opinion, June 27th) reveals that he at least is happy to treat people according to their financial means rather than their medical need. 

His ideology has blinkered him to the dire effects of the relatively small amount contributed by private patients to the total costs of healthcare being allowed shape our ‘two-tiered’ system. 

The real price is paid by thousands like Susy Long who suffer or in some cases lose their lives because of this uncivilised system. Just about 10 per cent of total healthcare costs is contributed by private health insurance. 

Instead of writing patronising and insulting letters about Ms Burke, Mr Stewart woulld be better employed reading her excellent book Irish Apartheid: Healthcare Inequality in Ireland. – Yours etc,

 DR FERGUS O’FERRALL, Adelaide Meath Hospital, Tallaght, Dublin 24.

Madam, – Your editorial (June 29th) states that the problems in healthcare are systemic rather than monetary – absolutley correct! (more…)

Letter about op ed piece published on 27 June

Posted in Book by saraburke on July 2, 2009

Healthcare system

Thu, Jul 02, 2009

Madam, – Sara Burke (Opinion, June 27th) is right to draw attention to the efforts, some good, some bad, to reform our unfair and expensive health system.

Inequality and rising costs are the two salient features of the Irish health system. But neither has been helped by the serial privatisations that have most characterised the Government’s efforts. (more…)

Letter published in Irish Times on article published on 27 June

Posted in Book by saraburke on July 1, 2009

This fella writes regularly to the letters pages and obviously is in the Harney school of healthcare….

Public and private healthcare

Wed, Jul 01, 2009

Madam, – Sara Burke (Opinion, June 27th) writes about the public/private divide in healthcare in Ireland. I find it very tiresome reading over and over again this ideologically-motivated propaganda. Miss Burke’s article is so confused, so incoherent and so lacking in intellectual rigour that I’m amazed it could be published in such an august newspaper as The Irish Times . (more…)

Daíl mention of Irish Apartheid on 23 June

Posted in Book by saraburke on June 23, 2009

Irish Apartheid jkt finalOn the night the book was launched, the Daíl debate on Crumlin’s Children’s hospital took place and the book got a mentioned from Labour spokesperson, Jan O’Sullivan, 

Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: Information ….I wish to challenge the Minister, Deputy Harney, and the Minister of State, Deputy Moloney, on some of the points they just made. The Minister constantly insists that, somehow or another, the Opposition is being political and she is not. That is far from the truth. The Minister stated that bringing three hospitals together will make savings and provide a solution to the problem and we are being political by focusing on the problem here and now.

When the HSE was being set up almost five years ago, the Minister used exactly the same arguments. She said that by bringing 11 health boards and a number of other organisations together there would be economies of scale. 
I went to the launch of a book today, “Irish Apartheid: Healthcare Inequality in Ireland” by Sara Burke. It debunks this absolutely. There is no point in the Minister smiling at me. She has an immense facility to debate, to retain facts and figures in her head and to stand up and repeat them but she tries to deny the right of the Opposition to make political arguments.

For full debate go to:

Irish Apartheid. Healthcare Inequality in Ireland now published

Posted in Book by saraburke on June 23, 2009

Irish Apartheid jkt final

If you like this blog, you may want to get ‘Irish Apartheid, Healthcare Inequality in Ireland’. It can be bought it in all good Irish book shops and on line from New Island and from Amazon.