An Cailíin Rua
While every day, a tale of injustice or unfairness emerges that stokes outrage among the masses, every so often you still hear something that stops you in your tracks with the sheer … wrong-ness of it.
Alex’s story is one of those.
Alex is the type of strong woman you’d want on your team; witty, endearingly honest, generous with her life experiences, and like most good Cork people, not shy to express an opinion.
Last week, Alex shared her story on Instagram Stories – which, for those unfamiliar, is a tool where you can broadcast to your followers. Alex is a cancer survivor. Parenting alone, when undergoing treatment for thyroid cancer, she was unable to work. It was a long and difficult journey back to health, and life post-cancer is not easy either; it takes its toll, mentally and physically. Cancer also takes its toll financially. As a result of being unable to work, Alex had to give up her private health insurance.
Last week, it came to light that VHI had decided to make certain cancer drugs available to private customers. Meaning that for the first time, private patients can now access treatments that public patients cannot. The only beneficiaries would be patients in private hospitals – these treatments will not be available to VHI patients undergoing cancer treatment in a public hospital.
That’s capitalism for you, you might say.
Alex went on to point out that a few years ago, the government kindly imposed a levy on private health insurance which impacts people who have not previously held insurance, or have let it lapse – something that puts it further out of reach. Should she be unlucky enough to be diagnosed with cancer again, her access to certain drugs could potentially be restricted – because of the fact that she had cancer in the first place.
There is something so very wrong and unfair about this; something that jars, so badly, with the expectations we have for a country like Ireland. It says that people with a certain amount of money are more deserving of health care than those without. We now no longer even try to hide the fact. The blatancy of this injustice is like a punch in the guts, a kick in the teeth. It is infuriating, and it is frightening.
I’m very aware that our government, our politicians and ‘the system’ are subject to relentless negative criticism; very little of it constructive. I know there are public representatives trying hard to deliver positive change. I know certain areas are improving. I know it takes time to turn the wheels and make things happen. I think our health minister has a job that is beyond difficult. But stories like this – and there are countless others demonstrating injustices of a similar scale – are a shameful reflection of our current administration.
We as voters are partially responsible. We vote into power the parties and the people who can influence the direction our country takes. Our record of voting in Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael governments alternately, and the resultant class division, is there for all to see. In Ireland we are still part of a society, not a capitalist wasteland, and like it or not, those of us privileged enough to be able to afford things like health care have a social responsibility to those of us who cannot.
Many of us are angry. But we are not powerless. We can stop complaining and take some responsibility for our role in the democratic process. We can vote. The local elections are approaching, and that’s where the seeds of change are sown. We can start by educating ourselves about our candidates. We could even put aside our party allegiances, and consider voting for someone new, or for a different party. There are new voices emerging, with new ideas and different outlooks.
We have a month. Let’s use it wisely, by considering our vote and its impact. Because, let’s face it, many of us, particularly the Alexes of this country, have little to lose by trying something new.
An Cailíin Rua