ERG/AOP announce election results and criticise GHA ‘mandarins’

Equality Rights Group (ERG)/Action on Poverty (AOP) recently held elections to its top Officer posts on its joint Executive. Felix Alvarez was once more unanimously re-elected to the post of Chair, along with Lyana Armstrong-Emery as Treasurer and Charles Trico as Secretary.

‘While the issue of filling the three top posts on the Executive was important as an agenda item, far more important was our in-depth analysis and discussions setting forth the big goalposts for 2023. I am pleased to find our Executive is more than ever focused on speaking truth to power, whoever may hold it. Our complete political impartiality and independence form a deep commitment that our organisation has stood by for years, and will continue to anchor its work on justice across a broad range of issues. Not only at the wider front, but also as it affects individuals. And while the personal intervention we provide on-going to those in need in our community is something we hold dear and very private, for us both private and public work are of equal rank,’ Mr. Alvarez commented.

‘We continue to be astounded by the GHA’s top management wishing to pull the wool over people’s eyes and are not in the least surprised by the public’s outraged reaction at the City Hall recently. Claiming that ‘scientific evidence’ shows that certain medications are ineffective when the public has clearly required them for years and has obviously found value in their use in battling pain, signals an attitude of ‘we the bureaucrats know better’. When the evidence is saying the very opposite: Lidocaine patches and other removed items are held in high esteem and value by the people who truly know because they need them.

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‘Despite some scattered areas of improvement, the GHA top management continues to attempt to feed the public a diet of overwhelmingly rosy outcomes that clash with their everyday experience of the health service overall: a regrettable reality of a continuously degrading service where appointments have not uniformly improved as we are being told, nor phone lines been significantly eased, and, more recently, where complaints are being received that the 111 Emergency Line service no longer has a doctor available out-of-hours. Furthermore, a number of reports have been made to us of individuals in difficulty being told by 111 operators that if they require an ambulance they will have to phone for one themselves, nor can they any longer provide Emergency Clinic appointments for those in serious need. Should such reports be verified, it should certainly sound loud alarms within GHA Management. Additionally, hypertensive individuals are finding it difficult to maintain their blood pressure status regularly monitored in a scenario where to obtain an on-going appointment with a given dedicated doctor is a jungle and a nightmare. This cannot be the most recommendable way to proceed and GPs should be able to directly issue on-going monitoring appointments or alternative and consistent methods used to safeguard the health of hypertensives in an effort to systematically reduce the real risk of stroke or heart disease impacts on this sector of our population.

‘Right from the introduction of government’s radical and economy-driven Prescriptions Policy, ERG/AOP has been highlighting the crude manner in which GHA Management has been enforcing the rapid and instantaneous withdrawal of medications that our medical professionals have for so long found sufficiently necessary and important for alleviating pain and other ailments for their patients; and all done on simple monetary terms, without a hint of embarrassment or conscience. While all reasonable people understand the need to curtail misuse and abuse, removing at a single stroke the ability of doctors at ground level from actually being able to prescribe from one day to another is neither in the interests of the patient, who may suffer the effects of sudden withdrawal, nor of the doctor who may find there is, in fact, no suitable substitute for the removed item. Older patients, for instance, faced with painful conditions for which they have indeed, found some level of manageable pain relief through the use of Lidocaine patches, may only find morphine in its various forms available depending on the particular patient profile; a substitute that, in a number of cases, doctors themselves do not consider suitable for that person, their age, or their condition. Claiming that inserting a delayed bureaucratic process of appeal or assessment is a cure for the misconceived treatment of individuals is to, once more, place the word of the GHA mandarins above the interests of the health experience of people in pain.

‘The GHA Management continues to wish to sell the community questionable arguments. But the responsibility for reversing the harms being visited on ordinary people must rest firmly and clearly on the shoulders of the Administration. A responsibility it cannot hold at a structural arm’s length any more.

‘As Chair of ERG/AOP I have made a clear commitment to our Executive: 2023 will see us investing more broadly and more deeply in issues that continue to hurt people in our society. There will be equal focus on government as well as opposition over the course of this election year. The Parties all need to answer and answer clearly. We will want answers up-front and without excuses. And where the age-old tactic of remaining silent continues to be used, we will issue public information in this regard, to the very door if necessary.

‘We expect to be busy.

‘Whilst it’s clear that the politics of 2023 will attempt to draw the spotlight narrowly on centre stage politics in an attempt to continue ignoring many everyday realities, we will not allow electioneering strategies to pull the wool over people’s eyes, drawing attention away from the deep internal structural inconsistencies that too many face.

‘In short, we will be calling for answers, not silence, half-truths or lies from the Parties. And we will unflinchingly accept dialogue with them all,’ the statement ended.