Edel Hughes: ‘Enda Kenny’s optimistic cancer prognosis should remind him of those less fortunate’

Brazen Kenny once appeared on a billboard campaign promising “I will end the scandal of patients on trolleys” in 2007.

Enda Kenny's infamous election promise

Edel HughesSunday World

Ex-Taoiseach Enda Kenny has been diagnosed with cancer, but is expected to make a full recovery, it was recently revealed.

The Mayo man underwent surgery in St James’s Hospital in Dublin to remove tissue from under his arm, but is confident the malignancy has been caught early.

It goes without saying, no-one would wish this diagnosis on the former Fine Gael leader and his family.

But while Mr Kenny has returned to his busy schedule as an adviser and consultant while maintaining an active lifestyle, others his age and younger are not so fortunate.

Enda Kenny (Pic: Steve Humphreys)

The ongoing overcrowding in our public hospitals resulted in a record 931 people waiting on trolleys on January 3 this year with University Hospital Limerick (UHL) forced to declare a “major internal incident” leaving the hospital unable to accept the majority of patients who presented to A&E the previous weekend.

An internal notice seen by The Sunday World told ambulance staff that UHL was closed to ambulances except for the most urgent cases – despite being the only A&E unit for miles.

What’s this got to do with Enda Kenny, you ask? Well, he became Taoiseach in 2011 when many regional A&E units were closed amid the recession, including Roscommon, Nenagh, St John’s and Ennis, leading to enormous pressure on UHL and other hospitals nationwide.

Enda Kenny's infamous election promise

Kenny and Roscommon Fine Gael TD Frank Feighan, promised to keep Roscommon Hospital’s busy A&E unit open – but later reneged and voted to downgrade the facility.

Local outrage resulted in Kenny fleeing from angry protestors at public appearance in Athlone and Fine Gael stalwart Denis Naughten leaving the party over the broken promise.

Feighan and Kenny were also heckled on the campaign trail in Roscommon Town in 2014, with locals surrounding the then Taoiseach’s Government car shouting “liar”.

It wasn’t easy for Mr Naughten, first elected as a Fine Gael TD in 1997, to leave the party but his conscience came first. He is now a successful Independent candidate, a regular poll-topper, and is locally viewed seen as one of the trustworthy few.

Sadly, during this year’s annual A&E meltdown, my own mother died after spending over seven hours waiting on a trolley for a bed at Portiuncula Hospital – on January 4, a day after record A&E overcrowding nationwide.

She was almost 77, just a few years older than Mr Kenny but had been ill in recent months. Prior to her death, she had been rushed to Portiuncula and Mullingar on several occasions – despite living opposite Roscommon Hospital.

TD tells Leo Varadkar of dying OAP's agonising wait on trolley in Portiuncula Hospital

Thankfully, she was admitted to the Medical Assessment Unit in Roscommon Hospital in the weeks before she died. But after a major seizure, she was rushed from her bed in Roscommon to a trolley in Portiuncula in the middle of the night as staff in Roscommon were unable to treat her.

Our family’s story is just one of many.

Retired teacher Declan Sweeney (78) died suddenly after being discharged from a high-dependency unit at Tallaght Hospital in 2018, his inquest heard this week.

The family of the former Dublin vice-principal have criticised care provided and the response of medical staff to concerns they had raised about his deterioration in the days before his death.

Senior Counsel for Mr Sweeney’s family, Roger Murray told Dublin Coroner’s Court due to leaving the high dependency unit, his condition was not reviewed by a hospital consultant “of any description” for five days over the busy Christmas period.

Mr Murray said a senior doctor at Tallaght Hospital had accepted inappropriate communications by staff on December 21, 2018, resulted in a missed opportunity to provide proper planning for Mr Sweeney’s care.

The inquest also heard evidence from Mr Sweeney’s daughter, Michelle Easterly, that they had repeatedly asked for their father to be seen by a senior doctor and to be transferred to an intensive care unit as he was regularly confused, sweating profusely and shaking.

Medical notes revealed he was not seen by a doctor on Christmas Day, and he was only seen by a medical intern the next day as a registrar had only reviewed his medical records but conducted no physical examination.

In February 2023, St Luke’s General Hospital in Kilkenny apologised to relatives of a man who died while waiting for gallbladder surgery.

Patrick Doyle, from Carlow, was diagnosed with gallstone pancreatitis and had his case marked as urgent in September 2016.

He was booked in November 2016 for gallbladder removal and a laparoscopy, but was still awaiting surgery in March 2017 when he collapsed and was readmitted to St Luke’s with severe upper abdominal pain.

Mr Doyle’s condition deteriorated, and he later died being transferred to a Dublin hospital on June 20, 2017. He spent 90 days in ICU and was just 47 years old when he died.

St Luke’s later issued an unreserved apology to the Doyle family for its “failings in respect of the care of the late Patrick Doyle.”

Who can forget the brazen billboard campaign Fine Gael ran with Enda Kenny promising “I will end the scandal of patients on trolleys” in 2007?

Sixteen years on, the situation has deteriorated year on year with no end in sight for sick and dying patients, overworked HSE staff, and heartbroken families who are trying to pick up the pieces.

During this unfortunate period of ill-health, Kenny would do well to reflect on his part in this disaster – and how he betrayed people who trusted him.

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