February is a time to dispense with aspirations and return to reality

Colin McGann

January is a time of resolutions and promises made by people from all walks of life and in all positions. It’s the start of a new year, and people are ambitious and excited. We want or need something to look forward to. We apply ourselves and get started in our ‘new lives’ or ‘new routines’ to achieve our goals.

That as it is, and as we embark on the second month of the year, I feel it is really February that is the time for resolutions. The time to hit the reset button. The time to make a fresh start.

In January, we avoid reality. We remark that things are quiet and use this an excuse to avoid making progress. We sidestep taking the bull by the horns and moving forward. The beginning of the year might be a fashionable time to get things done, but it is often not a realistic time to achieve our goals.

February is the beginning of the year in terms of getting things done. The aspirations are dispensed with and we revert back to an outlook of realism and practicality.

On the face of it, 2019 will provide many challenges for our island nation. Brexit looms large on the horizon and a general election is a distinct possibility. During the course of January, we have seen our health service come under increased pressure. On the front lines, we have seen nurses take a stand. Worn out from fighting the good fight and putting a brave face on things, they have rightfully taken to the streets to voice their concerns. This has been a long time coming and was far from a knee-jerk reaction to their situation. If anything the straw that broke the camel’s back came long ago, and these dedicated staff have been working wounded to ensure the health of a nation.

February needs to be a start to putting some of this right. Week in week out, we have reported on trolley numbers and harrowing accounts of how these affect the health of our people, of the dangers of a crumbling health system to our aging population. And yet still, there seems to be little or no change. We haven’t been able to report much in the way of improvements. We haven’t been able to celebrate a reduction in numbers of people on trolleys or shorter waiting times in A&E. This is not down to the nurses and, while they have called time on this, February 2019 needs to mark a hard reset from the Government.

The blame game isn’t a productive one, and rarely yields results. But if we are serious about turning a corner, the nurses’ strike is a clearer sign than ever that this will no longer stand.

So what of the future? The National Children’s Hospital offered the Government a shining opportunity to mark out a different future health service. It offered a window to where we are headed and how much better off we will be. However, the handling of last month’s Health Committee hearing on the overrun of costs scuppered any positivity that should have been attached to this project.

It’s a ball dropped by our current Government. But it was dropped in January and the year is long. There will be opportunities to rectify this and recover. There will be chances to dig ourselves out of this hole and make changes.

What needs to happen now is that the Government takes action. The time for talking is gone. The resolutions and aspirations of January and the new year need to be well and truly benched and replaced with action; replaced with lasting changes that will begin to take effect now. The nurses have begun to vent their frustration and it is only a matter of time until other sectors within the health service follow suit.

February is the real start to a new year. The time for change is now.

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