Dear Minister

This week Niall McGahon pens an open letter to the Government.

Dear Minister,

My name is Niall, I’m 39 years old and I have Multiple Sclerosis (MS). I am one of over 9,000 people living with MS in Ireland today. We are all dealing with our illness in different ways. We have good days, we have bad days and in my case, things could be a lot worse.

We need greater support for medicines and access to treatments. In my opinion, people diagnosed with chronic illnesses should automatically be eligible for the medical card. The system and how it operates is broken.  However, given the current crisis the country is going through, the wrangling over that can wait for another day.

Over the past 5 years I have gone through varying treatments both in and out of hospital. I have met many doctors, nurses, specialist nurses, neurologists and never once have I come away from them feeling short changed or annoyed. I have always been given the greatest of care and treated with the upmost kindness and respect. In Ireland (and the rest of the world) there are going to be many scars left over after the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, our nurses, paramedics and doctors are seeing untold pain and experiencing things that make my bad days pale into insignificance. I am cognisant that those same nurses, doctors and healthcare workers are having to deal with these issues in a system that in many cases simply isn’t fit for purpose. This must change.

If the current situation has taught the government nothing else, investment in our health system, the buildings and the people that work in them, is of critical importance. We should never ever have to see nurses, doctors or healthcare workers unnecessarily striking for better pay, we should never have people waiting on trolleys for a bed and most of all there should never be politics involved when it comes to caring for the lives of Irish citizens.

I would like to say thank you for the action you and the current interim government and the medical professionals have taken regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. You took politics out of the decisions you made and acted.

These actions have undoubtedly saved Irish lives. Let the next bold step our country makes be another shining light in the world of healthcare. In 2004 we led the smoking ban agenda and subsequently became a world leader in driving the tobacco control agenda internationally. Again, Irish lives were saved. Yes, people questioned its success at the time, but it sailed in. The country got behind it and stopped smoking indoors.

The country, for the most part, is doing the same now and knows that “Staying In, Saves Lives”. Our country will rise stronger from this. When we do, let us lead again with a health system that doesn’t creak, that people are not scared to go into for treatment or scared to work in. I hope that in 2035 we look back, as we do now with the smoking ban, and say “That was some action we took in 2020, isn’t life so much better now that we did it?”

As we face the weeks and months ahead, the 9,000 people living with MS in Ireland know we are not alone. After this pandemic, many people will be injured, there will be many scars. But I know, as a nation, we will heal together.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) – the literal meaning is many scars.

Go mbeannaí Dia thú,

Niall McGahon

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