WHEN I was four, I had a winter of tonsilitis that kept me out of school for my first formative year. That August I had my tonsils out but remember clearly always feeling like I was catching up.

A child with tonsilitis today will wait a minimum of four years for a consultant appointment, and if they need tonsils out, they will wait another five years. Yes, I said five. I would have been sitting in secondary school before the planned operation. God knows how many days off school and antibiotics later. Not having this simple day procedure can hit quality of life and educational achievement but is today only attainable in a reasonable time if you have around £5k to spend. 

And every procedure is the same. And we are worn down and exhausted. 

Everyone is exhausted with the grind of just getting through. If we are sick, we sit on phones for hours to talk to doctors, if we get through at all. If we need tests or treatments we wait months and years. We are asked routinely by our GPs if we would consider going private for anything that does not require a simple prescription. 

The scariest time in any person’s life is when they or a person they love has symptoms that they know might be cancer. There was once a time when those symptoms would be looked at; needles would be stuck in; scans taken; diagnoses given; treatment plans formed within days. It seems like a very long time ago, though.

Now? Well, we are all in the luck of the draw, aren’t we? 

It is better in the South where there are currently far better health outcomes for the population. But the system is still what Brian Cowen once termed “Angola”. 

To exacerbate the problem, there are planeloads of our graduated doctors, nurses and medical professionals departing airports on both sides of the border to sane countries that invest in health care and look after the healthcare staff that look after their populations. Every single week. 

In parallel to all of this, there is a constitutional conversation happening on this island. There are many healthcare related tropes thrown into the conversation without a serious analysis. Does it make sense to develop an all-island approach to healthcare? Yes, of course it does, and in some areas, like the much bandied-about baby heart surgery, it already does. But there are also serious issues of divergence and fears which cannot be glossed over.

It doesn’t feel like much of a selling point for all-Irelanders to say, 'Healthcare is collapsing on both sides of the border, so let’s build an all-island solution,' albeit one of huge merit. When the six-county budget is so comprehensively inadequate, though, the idea of replicating services on the one island feels like self-defeating insanity. 

The truth is that the two documents on shelves proposing health service reform on both sides of the border – Bengoa and Sláinte Care – are not only partitionist and blind to all-island potential, they were both developed before Covid and the deterioration of services North of the border. 

The Westminster election and the upcoming Leinster House election will no doubt distract political minds from finding the necessary courage required to find the lasting solutions to healthcare on this island. But it is only postponing the inevitable.