Article from the June 2005 issue of the Socialist
newspaper of the Socialist Party, Irish section of the CWI

Leas Cross nursing home

PRIVATE HEALTH SHAME!

by Stephen Boyd

THE EXPOSURE of the obscene abuse of elderly residents at Leas Cross Nursing Home outside Swords, Co.Dublin has sickened and appalled people. This scandal is just another twist in the story of a heath service that has lurched from crisis to crisis under the stewardship of Mary Harney. Nine months after coming to office her promise that she was going to give us a "world class" health service. This sounds very hollow against the backdrop of patients on trolleys, and the Leas Cross scandal.

It is quite clear that while Leas Cross was at the centre of this scandal, these type of conditions, abuse and neglect of the elderly are widespread. Leas Cross has lifted the lid on a litany of stories of old people all over the country living in freezing conditions, with inadequate medical attention and appalling food provision. In one example, leftovers were scraped off plates and used to make dinner the next day and in another case, it was discovered that the residents were able to shower only once every ten days!

There has been a 135% increase in the number of new private nursing homes. This is not surprising, as private nursing homes have become a lucrative business. The lack of public nursing homes is forcing the old into the hands of those whose primary interest is profit and not the care of elderly.

Generous tax breaks for nursing home owners are on offer from the government. They can buy a site in a rural green belt area at a cheap price and then get it rezoned significantly adding to their wealth. On top of this of course, there is the massive amount of money to be made in fees in this privately run, non-regulated part of the health service. Residents at the Leas Cross nursing home are charged E45,000 a year and its owners made a profit of almost E500,000 last year!

Care for the elderly is viewed by this government as a profit making business. As Joe Higgins TD said, "In all areas of life when the capitalists' greed for profit dominates, humanity goes out the window. Comprehensive care for the elderly should be organised by the State with sufficient resources to provide each person with security and dignity for their twilight years".

The Minister for Health Mary Harney wants to privatise our health service. She wants profit to become the motive for all heath care in this country.

Leas Cross is a damning indictment of private medicine and a powerful argument of why we must oppose this government's agenda to privatise our health service.



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