Inequality

The Irish Cancer Society tells us that

“Every 3 minutes in Ireland someone gets a cancer diagnosis…Incidence of cancer is growing and by 2020, 1 in 2 of us will get a cancer diagnosis in our lifetime.”

Yesterday the Irish Times and the Sunday Business Post informed us that VHI is allowing access to cancer drugs to their policyholders which are not available to uninsured cancer patients.  RTE have followed up today expressing ‘concern as only insured patients may access new cancer drugs.’

Mr John Crown, the renowned Medical Oncologist was quoted as saying,  “For the first time since I can ever recall, we have a difference in access to cancer drugs between public and private patients. It’s completely unfair. It’s going to be extraordinarily difficult now.”  “I’ll be seeing public and private patients this week and I will quite possibly be giving both of them different news about what treatment is available for them and I’m not comfortable with that.”

I do not know why VHI have written to oncologists informing them that they have extended access to these new drugs for certain cancers.

I do not know why the HSE does not already give access to these new drugs for cancer patients.

There may be a reason behind it.  Is it due to a lack of efficiency in HSE?  Have the HSE failed to keep up with the available drugs on the market?  Is it a ploy by VHI to gain a larger market share?  I have no idea.  Perhaps someone with the required knowledge could throw some light on that.

All I do know is that the HSE, the Health Minister, the government, the patient groups, the Irish Cancer Society and every person living in this country need to speak out immediately and put a stop to this further inequality in our Health Service.   It is imperative that those who have the power within the HSE act immediately to grant access to these drugs to cancer patients today, not next week, not next month or next year.  They need to act now.

According to ‘USA today’, Ireland is the 10th richest country in the world.  That’s ahead of the USA at 11th, Germany at 17th, Sweden at 18th, France at 24th.  Google it!  type in worlds richest countries.  There we are at number 10.   Yet we don’t rate at all on healthcare, while France is generally acknowledged to have the best health service in the world.  But there again, France is a true republic, we only pay lip service to the ideals of a republic.  We do not cherish all our citizens equally, certainly not if you are ill and in need of help and support, or even a little payback for all those paye/prsi/usc contributions that you have made.

We, the people, need to think about the type of society we want to be a part of.  Is the Ireland of today, the country you want it to be?

523,000 of us are on a waiting list for an outpatient appointment in a public hospital.  208,757 of those have been waiting more than nine months.  Those figures include 46,300 children.

Remember, by next year, 1 in 2 of us will get a cancer diagnosis in our lifetime.

Only 46% can afford private health insurance.

 

Definition of Kindness

Just when you start to despair, a ray of hope shines through with simple stories of random acts of kindness.  I opened Facebook this evening and the first two posts I read were from people I knew who had experienced random acts of kindness from a stranger today.  How uplifting to know that there are still those in our midst whose first thought is to do good for others.

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I read recently a suggestion from someone that if you make an effort to perform an act of kindness for someone every day, just something small and random, then by the end of the year you will have brought a smile to 365 people.  Speaking of a smile brings to mind the lines of a poem attributed to Spike Milligan.

“Smiling is infectious. You catch it like the flu.

When someone smiled at me today I started to smile too.

I walked around the corner and someone saw me grin.

When he smiled I realised I had passed it on to him.

I thought about the smile and then realised its worth.

A single smile like mine could travel round the earth.

So if you feel a smile begin, don’t leave it undetected.

Start an epidemic and get the world infected.” 

That doesn’t mean we should all go around every day grinning like Cheshire cats but we can make the effort to smile at those we interact with.  Think of the dozens of people you interact with every day, your bus driver, the barista in the coffee shop, the guy behind the counter selling newspapers and bottled water, the receptionist in the office or the security guard on the door, your co-workers or your bosses.  It could be the girl who serves you lunch or the tired retail worker who checks out your purchases for dinner on the way home.  Think how much better you will feel if you greet them all with a smile.  Think of the knock-on effect on those you meet, for when you smile at them, they more than likely will smile back and be more inclined to pass on that smile to the next person they meet.

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So, today I have decided that in future I will make an effort to be more pleasant in my interaction with others, to be friendly and considerate in everything I do.  I think that effort will be rewarded with a more positive outlook for me and the knowledge that I may just have made someone smile and brought a little light into their day.

Make it a good one.

I started the year telling myself that one of my new year resolutions was to find a saying that lifted the spirits, print it out and read it every morning before I got out of bed.  Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Well!  I did try.  I decided that what I needed to tell myself every morning was:

‘Today is the first day of the rest of your life.  Make it a good one.”

And I did keep to it for months.  And then I fell by the wayside.  Big mistake.

today is the first day

It was good to have my first thoughts of the day life-affirming and uplifting.  Starting your day on a positive note is good for the soul.  I would recommend it.  Just repeating that positive affirmation makes you stand up straighter, lifts your heart and clears your head.  But then you face into your day and the rollercoaster that is life.  It is easy to maintain your positivity when your day is good.  When you don’t get held up in traffic; when the best parking spot is there waiting for you; when your offspring ring with good news or just for a chat or when your loved one brings you flowers for no reason other than to show you they love you.  Those are the good days.

But then you get the days when nothing goes right.  When you get caught in a traffic jam and your ten-minute journey turns into thirty.  When the tickets you wanted were sold out two minutes before you got to the top of the queue; when it lashed rain as you ran for the school gates without your coat and stopped the second you sat back into the driver’s seat, squelching and cold; when you got sidetracked trying to write something and forgot about the stew until the burnt smell permeated the house.  You get the idea.  A series of little irritations.  Not bad news.  Not life-threatening.  Just irritating.  It’s those days that threaten your positivity.

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I hold my hands up here and admit defeat.  I fall under pressure.  On those bad days, my positivity takes a battering and I can hear that saying ringing in my ears ‘if it wasn’t for bad luck I would have no luck at all.”

It can be so easy to roll over and allow those distractions to dictate your mood.  To bring you into a downward spiral that can be so difficult to shake off.  If you look around you to those who are always upbeat, they are the people who roll with the punches, so to speak; who take whatever life throws at them and deal with it.  They are in control of their own destiny.

I suppose what I am trying to say is, that life happens, it happens to you and your loves ones, but it’s not what life throws at you and yours that should dictate, it is how you deal with what life throws at you that dictates your frame of mind, and you can control that.  You have complete control over that.

Like I said, my life would be so much easier if I took my own advice!

Your own front door

This time of year is a favourite of mine.  I love the colours of the leaves as they gradually fade from green to gold and russet.  I love the sound as they crinkle underfoot and the way they flutter in the breeze until they find their resting place in mounds that grow in the nooks and crannies.  My other half loves the splendour of the autumn leaves as they change colour.  He would just prefer if they stayed on the trees and not into our gutters and pathways and walked into the house.  Every year he wages battle with them, brushing them off the driveway and sweeping them away from the front door, where, in fairness, they tend to gather in huge numbers overnight.  Then eventually he gives in and bows to Mother Nature.  He points out that the blanket of leaves on the lawn will die back into the ground and offer nutrients to the grass, ensuring a vibrant green come next Spring.  It’s all part of the cycle of life, he says.  And we soak up the autumn colours and the last of summer sun and prepare ourselves for winter.  The chimney is cleaned and ready for the cold weather and the curtains are drawn each evening once darkness falls.

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And my thoughts turn to those in our country who do not have their own front door to close.  Last week in our town we witnessed the allocation of newly built social housing to those that needed it.  It was a momentous occasion, a great day for the key holders and for the officials who oversaw the project.  Problem is, it just wasn’t enough.  The provision of these new units hardly made a dent in the numbers of people who are on the housing lists.

Last December the number of households on Kildare County Council’s housing list was 7,319.

Yet according to the Census 2016 figures, there are 4,650 vacant properties in Kildare.

Not all of these properties may be habitable and they may be a mix of private and public ownership but surely some of these vacant properties could be brought into use to alleviate the housing list.  What is wrong with us as a nation that we have allowed our politicians to continue to pursue a housing policy which has failed nearly 10,000 people with many more due to join their ranks in the coming months?  What is wrong with our politicians that they can stand over these policies and defend them when it has been pointed out to them time and time again that their housing policy has failed totally?  Why don’t they just build houses?  People need a home to call their own.  The workers of this country need homes.  Build social and affordable housing.

Simple.

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Growing human beings

Where did the year go?  Last week in August already.  And what a summer!  The best summer we have had in living memory.  Heat, sunshine and a distinct lack of our normal rain!  We flocked to our beaches to frolic in the waves.  We trailed our mountains and our forests enjoying their natural beauty in warm sunshine and minus the usual wet-gear and waterproof boots.  We had stay-cations and weekend breaks and bought record breaking numbers of ice-creams and beers.

summer-clip-art-2018-15Festival lovers enjoyed a season of outdoor music without the accompanying mud and miserable drizzle with some commenting on how much more enjoyable the whole experience was, with the addition of sunscreen and dry sandaled feet.  This coming weekend, for the young and the young at heart, the last festival of the year takes place in Stradbally, County Laois.  I hope that each and every one of those attending have a wonderful time and pray that the autumnal rain stays away until Monday.

Some of the secondary schools are already back and into their autumn term.  The majority of schools return next week with the colleges the following week.  Whatever stage you are at, enjoy it.

rekfoto - orangeAs you are watch your child skip through the school gates, try and remember to give thanks and treasure the memory.  The years fly!  Before you know it, you will be dropping a teenager into school, maybe a surly one, maybe not.  Some will kiss you goodbye, some will ask to be dropped a mile away so that they don’t suffer the embarrassment of their parents dropping them at the school gates.  Either way is completely different from the eagerness of the national school child.  And as for college students, well, they’re adults.  They only need their mammy and daddy for washing and a good meal.  And that’s the way it should be.

Our children are on loan to us.  Our job is to bring them up to be self-sufficient adults who make a positive contribution to society.  The schools they attend will teach them the academic subjects they need, the Maths, the English the Sciences, the Languages.  Our job as parents is to teach them the values they need to be the best human being that they can be.  Our goal should be to teach our children the value of family, the value of hard work, the value of community and of respect for themselves and for their fellow human beings.  We should aspire for our children to have compassion for those less fortunate, to always lend a hand to those who need it.  We should aspire for our offspring to always stand up for themselves, to be confident in their abilities and their place in the world.  We should teach them the skills to make their own informed decisions, and how to change course if those decisions turn out to be the wrong ones for them.  Our goals for our children should be that, first and foremost, they become good human beings who will love life, love themselves and those around them and who will experience true happiness.

children good people

 

 

Easter 2018

IMG_2947 (1)As you scurry around buying your spring lamb and new potatoes for Easter Sunday dinner and your chocolate Easter eggs for dessert, spare a thought for those less fortunate.  The current homeless figures were released yesterday.  Nearly 10,000 people in this little republic are homeless and that’s just the ones we know about.   That figure includes 3,755 children.   Our Taoiseach @campaignforleo has finally realised that it is indeed a national emergency.  About time!

What is he going to do about it?

How will our government solve this ongoing emergency to prevent it becoming a catastrophe?

Are they going to take the advice of those who specialise in this area, such as Fr. Peter McVerry?

Are they going to build social and affordable housing?

Or are they going to continue to throw money into the black hole that has become the ‘homeless sector’?

An entire industry has sprung up providing accommodation to the homeless, an extremely profitable industry.  On 25th January my blog ‘Clueless about profiteering from the homeless’ asked when and why our government had abdicated their responsibility to the citizens of this state.  I emailed numerous TD’s and DCC/DRHE with four straightforward questions.  No replies.  No reply from our Housing Minister, no reply from our Taoiseach, no reply from Dublin City Council.   Nearly 10,000 homeless and our government are facilitating the use of private companies to cater for them.  To make profits out of the misery of others.

3,755 children without a home, in a country that is ranked the 14th richest country in the world.  It is disgraceful and immoral.

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On Easter Monday we commemorate 102 years since the proclamation was read out on the steps of the GPO.  The proclamation promised ‘religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens’ and promised ‘cherishing all the children of the nation equally’.

Nearly 10,000 homeless people in Ireland including 3,755 children.

Is this the Ireland they envisaged when they wrote the proclamation?

Happy Easter everyone.

‘Be yourself, everyone else is taken.’ Oscar Wilde

This quote, usually attributed to Oscar Wilde, always springs up on those sites promoting health and well-being.  It is tagged as a funny quote, inspirational, clever.  To me, it conjures up somewhat disturbing images, of a figure running around frantically searching for an elusive figure known as true self.  I always thought that the truth is, we all have several personas that are all our true self.  As women, our first role is of daughter, which then expands to include sister, friend, maybe wife, maybe partner, hopefully mother, aunt, and grandmother.  Each role requires both different and similar attributes from us.  The trick is to be the best person you can be in whatever role you are fulfilling, however difficult that may be.

Where some people fall down, is in trying to be something they are not.  That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have ambitions, that you shouldn’t strive to improve your way of life.  It just means that you should bring your true self with you on that journey.  To do otherwise is to bring unnecessary hardship into your life, and who needs that?  Life is difficult enough without making it more stressful by refusing to acknowledge who you are, where you are from and who you have become.

For we all change in this journey through life.  Each experience, painful or joyful, brings something into our hearts and helps form the person we become.  We can choose to roll with the punches so to speak.  We can hold out a helping hand to those who struggle.  We can decide to be the best version of ourselves.  But above all, we should strive to be the best version of ourselves that it is possible to be.

Smile and the world smiles with you

This is week eight of my Year of Possibilities and things are looking up.  The days are starting to get longer although it remains very cold.  I think we can all cope with the cold winter days, provided it’s bright and frosty like this week.  My problem is when it’s wet and cold and miserable.  You know those grey days when the rain never clears, and the sky remains grey from morning to night.  In Ireland, the first two months of the year tend to be over populated by those grey days.  Our homes feel dark and grey after the twinkling lights of Christmas have been taken down and put away for another year.  The limited daylight and the wet cold weather prohibits outdoor activity and we miss the fresh air.  It can be hard to find any joy in these dark days.  Which is why it’s so important to look for any reason to smile, to laugh, to find joy in the everyday.

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A simple trick is to smile.  When you smile, that smile is invariably returned and lifts the heart.  I don’t mean grinning like an idiot at every passer-by in the supermarket.  You could get locked up for that.  But if you greet each person you interact with, with your friendliest smile, be it your butcher, your co-worker or your nearest and dearest, your smile will be appreciated and returned.  That interaction will make you feel better and will lighten the hearts of those around you.  The simple act of smiling is proven to raise your endorphins, making you feel better, lowering your blood pressure, relieving stress and boosting your immune system.  Simple isn’t it?  And smiles are catching.  You smile, your smile is returned to you and that person smiles at the next person they interact with and so the ripples extend outward touching more lives than you could ever imagine.  I think I might make it my mission in life to smile more, to spread joy, even if only in my limited circle, for who knows how far that circle could possibly extend to.

‘Smile and the world smiles with you, cry and you cry alone.’Vector illustration of cool glossy Single Emoticon

Mothers and Daughters

What is it about mothers and daughters?  Why is the relationship so fraught?

Over Christmas, I was at a family gathering, a very pleasant evening celebrating a 50th wedding anniversary.  Several of us mothers got to talking.  One mother of a 14year old girl wondered what had happened to her daughter.  She joked that someone had broken in one night and stolen her sweet adoring little girl and replaced her with this surly teenager who thought her mother knew nothing.  Us older mothers were able to sympathise, we had been there, but we were able to reassure her that her daughter would come back, the teenage years do pass.

I remember arguing with my mother, not as an adultescent but as an adult.  I told her that she needed to let go, that I was an adult, that she couldn’t live my life for me.  I can still see the hurt on her face.  We got over it.  She knew better than me.  Knew I needed her.  Our argument did set some boundaries.  She began to realise that I was indeed an adult and needed to make my own decisions and my own mistakes.  I began to realise that I needed her advice and encouragement more than I thought or imagined.  We both started to respect each other’s space, so to speak.

I think all of us mothers want to be the type of mother who adjusts automatically to the new freedom gained when your children reach adulthood.  The type of mother who knows instinctively how to let cut the apron strings.  The relationship between mother and daughter is special and very different from the mother/son relationship.  Maybe it’s because we want so much more for our daughters than we had for ourselves.  Maybe it’s because our daughters want a better life for themselves.  Whatever the reasons, learning how to make that relationship a mutually rewarding one can be difficult.  As mothers, we have to learn to respect our daughter’s hopes and dreams and to appreciate that those hopes and dreams may be very different than the ones we anticipated for them when they were little girls.  Our daughters need to learn to respect that we do have a valid point of view, and we can provide valuable advice.

All they have to do is ask.  All we have to do is listen.

 

Fathers and daughters, of course, are a whole other ball game.

 

 

Clueless about profiteering from the homeless

It has been quite a week for revelations about profits to be made from the homeless crises.  Early in the week, we learnt that a company named R&G Administration which manages homeless accommodation for Dublin City Council made a profit of almost €3 million in 2016.  Yes, you read it right, €2,929,045 to be exact.  Jaw-dropping, isn’t it?  TheJournal.ie reported that R&G Administration has a contract with DCC for the upkeep and management of approx. 80 rooms for homeless families in The Bonnington Hotel.  R&G Administration does not own the hotel, it simply maintains these rooms which are separate from the main hotel.  It also operates emergency accommodation on the North Circular Road, again for Dublin City Council.

When did private companies become involved in managing the homeless?  Am I the only one who finds it immoral that anyone could profit from the misery of others.  When did the HSE and the various Councils abdicate their responsibility to look after the homeless?  Who made this decision?  Who in Dublin City Council decided that instead of taking responsibility for the homeless, they would farm that responsibility out to private companies?  What facilities would that €3 million have provided for the homeless?  How many homeless families could they have housed with that €3 million?  And that is pure profit, after-tax profit.  What salaries were paid, what expenses were paid, what allowances put aside for contingencies before the after-tax profit?  Was this decision taken by one person or by committee?

And later in the week, more revelations.  It gets better!  A new hub is due to open next week.  The people that own R&G Administration also own Graray Ltd and Graray Hotels Ltd, both set up in November 2016.   In November 2016 NAMA sold Lynam’s hotel for a reported €6 million.  The Companies Office shows Graray Hotels Ltd are involved in ‘Hotels & Similar Accommodation’ and that Graray Ltd is involved in ‘Buying and selling of own real estate’.  It was reported that in April 2017 Dublin City Council Dublin took out a five-year lease on Lynam’s hotel and undertook the cost of refurbishing it to be used a hub for homeless families.  The hub is due to open next week to house 38 families.  Graray Ltd has been given the contract to run the hub.

There are 15 hubs so far, all managed and run by various well-respected charities with four exceptions.  It has been reported that the exceptions are, Lynam’s, The Bram Stoker Hotel in Clontarf, The Townhouse on Gardiner Street and the Viking Lodge on Francis Street which are run by private companies.  Dublin City Council had already stated that Lynam’s will be run by Graray Ltd.  Who runs the others?  When was the decision taken to award contracts to private companies to manage the hubs for the homeless?  Who made that decision?  How were those contracts awarded?  Was there an open tender process?  Maybe it’s just me, but who in their right minds could possibly think that it is right, just or moral to facilitate anyone making lucrative profits from those less fortunate in our society.

Have a look at the HSE website where it states, ‘The HSE Homeless Services oversee and manage a range of services and supports.  There are provided through outreach specialist services and specialised teams and individuals.  They are contracted through the voluntary sector, to deliver services on behalf of the HSE to service users from diverse groups.’ (http://www.hse.ie/eng/about/Who/primarycare/socialinclusion/homelessness-and-addiction/homelessness/)

The DRHE website states ‘We work in partnership with a range of voluntary and statutory agencies to implement the Homeless Action Plan Framework for Dublin 2014-2014.  (http://www.homelessdublin.ie/what-we-do).

No mention of private companies on either site.

I have emailed our housing minister Eoghan Murphy and DCC/DRHE amongst others and will let you know what reply I get if any.