THE NEWSDESK: We need to save heart patients' lives and live up to the ideals of Aneurin Bevan
ILLNESS is neither an indulgence for which people have to pay, nor an offence for which they should be penalised, but a misfortune, the cost of which should be shared by the community.
The words of Aneurin Bevan, the founding father of the NHS.
And this week, they bear repeating.
I'm thinking of our story on Friday revealing the fact that Pill councillor Ron Jones died after being on the heart surgery waiting list for 15 months. It is though he is one of the 99 patients in Wales who have died on the heart surgery waiting list in the last five years.
His partner's decision to reveal his suffering was important.
Not because it should be used as yet another stick with which to beat the NHS in Wales, or the NHS in general, but because Ron Jones was a Labour stalwart who believed in the NHS and loved it as this country's finest creation. Which it is, still, despite all its problems.
And people such as Councillor Jones deserve so much better at it hands. But, make no bones about it, there are those out there who would use this heart surgery crisis in Wales as an excuse to introduce privatisation by the back door.
People who have far less love for it than Councillor Jones did.
I can't help thinking that the injection of privatisation has worked ever so well for us in other respects like the railways and utility companies, hasn't it?
Has competition driven down our power bills or increased them?
Is our railway network a seamlessly functioning piece of joined-up transport planning?
And here's the crucial difference with this public service - people's lives depend upon it.
Do we, here in Wales, want to end up with a system based on private health insurance or have a version of private health insurance within it?
Do we want a two-tier NHS where those with enough cash can leap-frog those who have none?
I cannot think of many people who would answer yes to those questions.
So the best defence of our NHS, here, devolved in Wales, is to look at how we are running it. To give no comfort to those who would use it as a way of deflecting attention from the deficiencies of the NHS in other parts of the UK, or use it a method of arguing for more private sector involvement.
It is simply no good to say, though correctly, that the Welsh Government's budget has been cut. Yes, it has. But this is not a case of people waiting for minor procedures.
It is not even a case of people waiting for procedures the lack of which debilitates their lives and leaves them in pain - like orthopaedic operations. That is bad enough.
This is a case of playing Russian roulette with heart patients whose conditions are immediately life-threatening.
I know from family experience how dangerous such heart conditions can be - 16 years ago this month, my mother underwent a quadruple heart bypass operation at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff which neither my family nor her doctors doubt saved her life.
I have nothing but praise for the surgical, intensive care, and nursing teams who treated her. Nothing teaches you the value of our NHS better than a loved-one's serious illness.
For months before that operation, our family lived with growing fear about this heart patient's condition. The knowledge previous generations had been struck down by heart disease.
We are here to tell you these cases do not improve - stabilisation is the only outcome to be hoped for before surgery. Deterioration is a constant threat.
The fact that patients are now waiting for more than a year in that terrible limbo - affecting everyone who loves them - is not acceptable.
A system which does not differentiate between those whose lives could be lost and those whose lives will not be lost is not fit for purpose.
We need to ensure our NHS in Wales is a shining beacon for the ideals of Nye Bevan. And that doesn't mean adding yet more layers of bureaucracy to the health system.
What it means is someone in government in Cardiff Bay sitting down and saying that the funds we have must be directed at the places with most pressing need.
We need an injection of common sense so very, very badly.
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