Save our GPs!

Donal O’Cofaigh has highlighted repeatedly the continued failure by Stormont to address the ongoing GP crisis in Fermanagh and South Tyrone. In recent months he publicly revealed statistics confirming the scale and extent of the crisis in GP out-of-hours cover.

Funding for primary care (GPs) in NI is among the lowest in the UK. Moves to increase the numbers of GPs being trained up are far too low to address the shortfall. Even more disgracefully Stormont is refusing to consider the obvious option of the NHS directly employing GPs and directing them to work in areas of greatest need – just as other emergency workers are recruited.

The failure to deal with the GP crisis and the out-of-hours GP crisis – means that pressures on our Emergency Department are overwhelming. Staff are underpaid, understaffed and at breaking point. Those who need medical attention face interminable waits, meaning serious conditions being undiagnosed. A perfect storm is brewing and there is a genuine fear that there are those at the top of the Health Department who will not let a ‘good crisis go to waste’. We face the threat of further creeping privatisation and cutbacks. We must stand ready to organise to defend our NHS services!

The Northern Ireland Executive’s road map to exit lockdown

Tuesday [May 12th] two days after Prime Minister Boris Johnson released his government’s plan on how to end the lockdown, the Northern Ireland executive produced their own roadmap on reopening the economy.

The document gave no indicative dates for the transition between each step of re-emergence, as had that of both governments in London and Dublin, but in most other regards the roadmap was closely aligned to that of the Tories and therefore of the economic interests of those who seek a speedy return to normal business in the midst of a global pandemic.

Increased divisions and tensions

Contrary to attempts by the parties to make a virtue of necessity by claiming their collective inability to even agree an alternative, indicative timeline was ‘science-led’, the failure to do so reflects the deep divisions existing between the executive parties and the contested nature of the state in Northern Ireland.

Since the inception of this crisis, the DUP has sought to align Northern Ireland with ‘herd immunity’ approach taken by the UK government – where workers and the vulnerable pay with their lives to minimise the economic damage to the capitalist class.

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Stormont Ministers fail residents of care homes in face of Covid-19 pandemic

It was always unavoidable that mistakes would be made during the handling of this pandemic. No public health threat on this scale has existed in any developed economy for many decades – and given that modern economies are integrated and interdependent (networked) on a scale previously unimaginable – the economic and social impact of a global pandemic were always going to pose severe difficulties. These unavoidable problems were always going to be exacerbated by the fact that governments globally are almost universally driven by the needs to facilitate the interests and the continued profits of the parasitic capitalist class – leaving working-class interests and safety a very low priority. But these considerations notwithstanding, it is also undeniable that there has been a range of governmental responses globally – leading to a varying severity of outcomes for workers in different countries and regions.

The Covid-19 pandemic came on the back of a decade of biting austerity cuts to public health and social care services in Northern Ireland. It also occurred against a backdrop where social care for vulnerable and the elderly was highly fragmented with the majority of residents in care homes being run by private companies ‘the independent sector’. Stormont parties on all sides had normalised the profit motive in the provision of care and indeed pump-primed the growth of the sector through public funding tied to the growing numbers of residents in private care homes. Nonetheless care homes operators often felt the need to ‘top up’ their public sector revenues through the imposition of hefty additional charges levelled on residents or their families.

The situation in care homes was always going to a major difficulty should a pandemic strike.

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