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Saving lives with Reilly – Irish Health Minister takes on sacred cows - A different kind of health minister rings the changes in his job

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Irish Health Minister Dr. James Reilly

Dublin: Irish Health Minister Dr. James Reilly has become a favorite whipping boy of the Irish media which, given his portfolio, is hardly surprising.

However, like much in the Irish media these days, the good news is covered up in favor of sensational headlines that draw a few gasps and more media tattle.

Health has been a basket case in Ireland for many years with a system so hopelessly compromised by an elite group called consultants at the top that almost no progress has been made. Many of the practices are hopelessly outmoded

Reilly has tackled many of the major issues head on and has been successful, but you would never think that given the coverage.

Hardly a day goes by that he is not being pilloried in the press but the brutal coverage disguises what has actually been happening with health care.

Waiting lists in emergency rooms, with sometimes dozens of patients in trolleys in hallways, are a thing of the past. Reilly has also tightened up management in many problem hospitals and brought in fresh faces, which were badly needed.

He has also tackled the consultants issue and the inflated pay scale for top operators, which had helped drive medical costs sky high.

Reilly’s stated ambition is to make medical care free and available for all by the end of his tenure, an ambition that has been ridiculed in many parts, but I would not bet against him.

A doctor himself, Reilly is an unlikely politician who entered the great game late in life and has become a key minister in the Fine Gael government with very little political experience behind him.

That has resulted in many unforced errors, especially in his dealings with the media, but I doubt if there is a more competent minister or smarter politician in the cabinet.

By your deeds shall you know them and Reilly is quietly taking on the special interests in a game that has far more consequences than just the latest smart assed headline.

Members of my family went to see him about sepsis, the deadly disease that killed my nephew Rory after New York University hospital failed to diagnose it.

He operates out of a run down building near the south docks of Dublin’s Liffey River. From such an unimposing building he seeks to bring about historic changes.

My sister Orlaith and brother-in-law Ciaran Staunton have become passionate in seeking to ensure that there are no more Rorys either in New York or Dublin because of hospital oversights.

I have accompanied them to many meetings and have rarely been as impressed as I was with Reilly and his staff who were right on top of the topic in a way that, regrettably, many top New York hospitals and experts are not.

Frankly, I had wrongly assumed that the U.S. would be ahead on this issue of Ireland but I was proven wrong. Based on the protocols in place in Irish hospitals, Rory’s life would almost certainly have been saved.

The Irish medical system is undergoing a massive overhaul at present, but looking on it through American eyes it is clear that it is improving in significant ways that are perhaps being lost on the Irish themselves.

They have Dr Reilly to thank for much of that.

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