Tomás Ó Flatharta

Looking at Things from the Left

Acting Taoiseach Leo Varadkar the Volunteer Doctor – Celebrity Distraction, Hindrance to Health Services?

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A worker asks us if the celebrity actions of the Irish Acting Taoiseach are a help or a hindrance to the war against the CoronaVirus Epidemic.

Seriously. What worries me is not Leo the Doctor, but Leo the Taoiseach.

I think the discussion on whether he worked as a Doctor and has the experience or not is not the real issue. This ‘fact’, whatever it is, has very little value, if any at all, in terms of our situation, our lives and the state of the health system and the country as a whole.

  1. He is paid and uses his authority as the leader of the country, not as a volunteer Doctor.
  2. As a volunteer Doctor, his actions or his help is no bigger or smaller, no more or less significant than thousands of other healthcare workers. Why this big fuss, big media headline?
  3. Why, because the mainstream media is on this “let’s be positive at all costs” trip. Leo has now a new PR machine.
  4. We just got defective Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) shipped from China. Total incompetence.
  5. Nurses and other workers in hospitals are not fully protected in terms of PPE. Listen to nurses.
  6. Student nurses are NOT paid as we believed to be the case. Fact.
  7. Private hospitals are NOT nationalised as we believed to be the case.
  8. Workers are facing serious problems, in terms of ambiguity of definition of essential/essential services, health and safety other challenges from bosses. Listen to workers.
  9. People in homeless hubs, hostels, or in overcrowded family conditions – cannot self- isolate.
  10. Asylum seekers in Direct provision are living in extremely dangerous conditions.
  11. Doctor Leo Varadkar the Taoiseach still targets the poorest, lowest paid workers in his latest statement (See the IT piece today)
  12. People are extremely worried about piling up rent and utility bills.

In summary, I personally don’t care about any celebrity style ‘volunteerism’ which has, in terms of real impact, more self serving value than aiding to the efforts to healthcare workers.

Furthermore I think that Doctor Varadkar’s presence in any health facility could cause further disruption to health services. Think of unnecessary extra security, paparazzi style media hype, breach of privacy of health facilities and patients. He will be driven, escorted by Gardai. He will create a risk of spreading the virus all other days when he is not a Doctor.

Doctor Varadkar needs to do better! Keep the Dáil running in a safe and effective manner, at the very least.

Leo as a Doctor is a distraction. An optional extra. Our democracy and economic/social wellbeing, on the other hand is not. Miriam Lord discussed these issues in her Irish Times Column – worth a read : she refers to Richard Boyd-Barrett TD :

 

Richard Boyd-Barrett TD Warned that Varadkar’s Irish Government Should Not Go Down the Authoritarian Road of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán – He Has a Point

 

Here’s Richard Boyd Barrett, one of the TDs who insisted the controversial sitting had to take place: “It’s critical the Dáil sits, whether it’s remotely, whether it’s in a different venue, whatever…but it’s essential.”

So he isn’t hung up on Leinster House, or the chamber, as the location. He just wants parliament to do its work

Questions Asked in Dáil Éireann :

But on Thursday, the TDs got to ask their questions. They were on issues such as alarming reports of death and infection in the nursing home sector, the lack of PPE for carers, issues around home help, protection for workers against unreasonable employers and the concerns of people in direct provision.

No Answers :

 

They got no answers on the floor of the Dáil apart from woolly promises that they would get written replies in due course.

Minister Josepha Madigan’s Diversion :

Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan closed the health debate by rounding upon TDs for dragging everyone away from their homes just so they could speak in the Dáil. “Shame on you!” she cried, sticking word for word to her script.

No Answers :

But she didn’t answer any of the questions, despite vociferous protests from Fianna Fáil’s Health spokesman, Stephen Donnelly. Not one.

Doctor Varadkar’s Diversions :

Though there are lots of lovely photographs of Leo Varadkar at events doing a wide range of socially distant poses, perhaps Stephen might like to look at one of them. – Miriam Lord, Irish Times, “You Cannot Cocoon Democracy, or Can You?” Thursday April 2 2020

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/miriam-lord-you-cannot-cocoon-democracy-or-can-you-1.4219479

The Fine Gael TD for Dublin West has the income and luxury to choose how many days he can work as a Doctor, and how many other days will be spent as “Acting Taoiseach” who lost the February 8 General Election, and then lost a Dáil Vote of Confidence.

Seriously. What worries me is not Leo the Doctor, but Leo the Taoiseach.

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