Delegates to the Annual General Meeting of European Anti-Poverty Network, Ireland have called for urgent reform of public health policy.
Delegates and speakers expressed their anger at policies which mean that people’s health and life expectancy depend on their income and ability to pay to get quality health services and jump queues.
They welcomed the establishment of the Oireachtas Committee on the Future of Healthcare, “…to achieve cross-party consensus on a single long-term vision for health care and the direction of health policy in Ireland”.
They called for a recognition of the right to health care, and in particular for:
- Policies on housing, welfare and education to urgently address the factors which cause ill health disproportionately among people on low incomes and minorities;
- Giving priority within the health system to planned and coordinated primary health care services available to all on an equal basis;
- A reform of the acute health services to establish a single-tier system with equal access for all those who need services.
Delegates also called for training and awareness raising among health professionals. It is vital that front line staff have an understanding of the culture and life experiences of people who are homeless, affected by poverty and ethnic or other minorities.
Delegates discussed a presentation by member Audry Deane who explained how poverty and discrimination lead to ill health and early deaths. These are easily preventable at this stage in Ireland’s development. She also talked about the neglect of primary health care, the lack of a systematic approach and the scandal of waiting lists for acute care which depend on income and insurance status.
Emma Richardson, Kathleena Twomey and Paul Haughan of Focus Ireland presented the findings of their peer-research project ‘Hearing it from the Ground Up’. They talked to homeless people about the causes of ill-health and issues in access to services (see http://www.re-invest.eu/about-us).
Kathleen Lawrence and Mary Collins of Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre talked about their primary health care team which identifies health issues and provides support in their communities (see http://www.paveepoint.ie/project/primary-health-care-for-travellers-project/). They outlined the issues in health, including the scandalously high death rate among Travellers, discrimination in the system. They pointed to the death rate among Travellers (in 2008, for example, if Travellers had had the same death rate as the rest of the country, we would have expected 54 deaths. In fact there were 188). They also described how primary health teams led by Travellers were leading to improved health and longer life expectancy.
AGM discussion – crisis in ‘the social Europe’
At the AGM itself, introducing the Annual Report for 2015-2016 and plans for 2016-2017, EAPN Ireland Director Robin Hanan talked about the crisis in ‘the Social Europe’:
“…While the last decade has seen gradual side-lining of commitment to the ‘Social Europe’, the issues have come home to roost in a particularly worrying way over the last year. The new Fiscal Treaty is being implemented with little regard for the impact on the income, services and quality employment which are needed for a decent life. The European Platform Against Poverty, announced with much fanfare in 2010 as part of the Europe 2020 Strategy, has almost sunk without trace. Many European governments seem to have been paralysed by fear of increasing racism to the extent that they have been unable to agree a humane and positive response to people seeking asylum or a better life. Most recently, our biggest neighbour, the UK, has voted to leave the EU in an atmosphere of fear and hate and similar emotions are being exploited across many other EU member states….”
“…The next five years will be crucial. As we rebuild from recession we face some fundamental choices: Do we want to rebuild a divided or integrated society? Can we tolerate persistent homelessness? Can we see another generation of children with wasted futures?..”
For more information, please contact Robin Hanan.
Photos are available here (all taken by Pierre Klein, ATD Ireland, for open use with credit)