In April, Health Minister Robin Swann admitted that it could take 10 years to address the waiting list crisis in Northern Ireland. With the suspension and curtailment of many services, the Covid-19 pandemic had a massive impact on waiting lists. Even before this, however, Northern Ireland’s health waiting lists were amongst the longest in Europe, and the longest of any NHS region.
This crisis was not inevitable. Stormont has had months to strengthen our health service in preparation for a resurgence of Covid. Instead, they were focused on reopening the economy as fast as possible in the interests of big business, which is a key reason for the current spike
The coronavirus pandemic has exposed the reality of years of chronic underfunding of the NHS. The reality of cutbacks has been evident in the scramble to obtain appropriate PPE, the lack of available ventilators, as well as staff shortages. The pandemic has led to a substantial increase in those on waiting lists, reflective of a longer-term crisis within the NHS. This raises the question of NHS management and illustrates the impact of privatisation.
An enormous expansion of health service facilities, resources and staff would be required to ensure a high quality of care and safety continues as we work and live with Covid-19.