Irish healthcare workers feeling the recession blues.
Posted Dec 26 2009 1:34pm
There's a recession in Ireland.
A really BAD recession.
We've had to stop buying new BMWs and 500,000 euro houses while earning 30k per year. That's no bad thing, it has to be said. But it's meant a pretty lean Christmas for a lot of Irish folk.
So, a budget was called recently, to sort out this mess. This PR (and I mean that in the non medical way) exercise had, and will continue to have, signifcant repercussions for healthcare staff working in our beleagured public service. It was aimed at punishing those with a weak voice (with social welfare cuts) and placating those who tend to vote in greatest numbers (The private sector workers and pensioners).
The public wanted public sector heads to roll, because they were angry at giving up their BMWs and 500,000 euro houses that they bought on credit. There was a bizarre thought process that permeated the private sector regarding the payment of all public sector workers. The logic was that "we've all taken pay cuts, so now it's your turn".
The public sector is too expensive, went the argument, so the public sector workers have to pay to keep it running.
We have hospitals that cost millions to run every month. We can't afford it, so we need money. Fair enough. The whole country uses these hospitals. So, how do we get the money? We take it from those people WORKING in the hospitals. A friend argued that he had already taken a 6% paycut while working for a large accounting firm, so he shouldn't have to pay for the hospitals and the police service and the fire service to keep operating. Only in Ireland.
I'm just back from Australia for a holiday, so I thought I'd missed something. "But you've taken a pay cut so your boss's company can survive. That's exclusively for your company's benefit. But the public sector is used by everyone, so why do only the 1/6th of the workforce who work in it have to pay to save it?"
I've asked this question several times, and have been told the following A) The public sector are useless and "bloated". As this is a medical blog, I guess we should be focussing on whether that's true in healthcare. And healthcare workers took the same large cuts that everyone else did. In my experience in Ireland, EVERY SINGLE hospital department I've ever been in has been grossly understaffed. Pregnant doctors have been working 48 hour shifts. It's common to work 24 hours every 4th day. Now THAT is value for money! My sister used to work in medical records, and came home a shell of herself each evening. Another sister worked at a reception desk in a large hospital, until she got a much more sedate, and much better paid job in the private sector.
B) The public sector are overpaid: This is more difficult to fathom. There are various reports that support this claim. But they compare averages. In the private sector, some people are on pheomenal money, but some people get left to the dogs with appalingly low wages. Averages work best when there's a normal distribution. The private sector has been quick to throw the crumbs to it's lower skilled workers for donkey's years. I don't think that should be applauded. My private sector friends have been almost boasting about how there are people in their offices doing long hours for a pittance while angrily frothing at the mouth thinking about public sector workers earning a fair wage. Then the comparisons with the UK start getting made (particularly in relation to doctors and nurses) and my eyes start to roll. People in Ireland look at the NHS as a utopia where fatcat doctors and nurses get paid a smaller wage than they do in ireland. It's probably true. But the morale of the doctors in Britain is unbelievably low (and not just because of their pay). It's probably true that junior docs in the UK DO get less money than their Irish counterparts. But the UK docs don't have to cope with 24-72 hour straight shifts on a very regular basis. Plus the cost of living is much higher in ireland. I get paid less in oz than in Ireland, but I get a MUCh better stanbdard of living for my money (and I live in a big city). Same when I worked in the UK. I used to own a lovely apartment in the posh part of town, but wouldn't have been able to afford a cardboard box on that wage in Ireland. So, there's a context to wages. I'm just not sure why Irish docs have to be benchmarked against British doctors, when both are treated like dirt by their employers. The only difference is that the Irish docs have been a bit more successful at getting remunerated for it.
Also,and I realise I'm being controversial, getting a place in nursing school in the UK is a LOT easier than getting a place in ireland. Irish nurses TEND to be better qualified in my experience, and to adopt the private sector mantra, we should reward excellence. I have a good friend in the UK who is a qualified nurse who tells me he never learned ANY pharmacology at nursing school!!
But I guess the real purpose of this post is to ask whether anyone can explain to me why public sector workers in Ireland have to pay more for the upkeep of these PUBLIC sectors than anyone else? Are, Irish healthcare workers now more entitled to a hospital bed? or a quicker police response?