How to create universal health care: ask a virus

Equality has just taken a giant leap forward in the south of Ireland. Or maybe two leaps.

Because of the pandemic, all private hospitals have been taken over by the state. There were no ifs, buts, no let’s-talk-about-this. The government took them over. As things stand, all hospitals south of the border exist to serve all citizens.

The second leap forward is that everybody appearing with  coronavirus will be treated free of charge.  Admittedly this applies if it’s the corona virus and not something else. But still.

If you’d said two months ago that today, all hospitals in the south would effectively be state hospitals and that all treatment for a particular condition would be free, you’d have been charged with radical socialism at best and water on the brain at worst.  Yes, we’d all like universal health care, no one should have an advantage in medical treatment because they’re rich, the system should be such that everyone would be happy to use it – but these things take time. We must have discussions. We must allow for the market to operate. We must not ride roughshod over people who get up early and who have enterprise and go-getterness. Agus blah blah bloody blah blah.

Coronavirus has shown us it can be done. Yes, there’s a price to be paid – but didn’t we know that anyway? There’s no magical money pump – you get what you pay for.

The prospect of being hanged in the morning, Dr Johnson said, concentrates the mind wonderfully. The prospect of catching the coronavirus has a similar effect.  Is it possible that out of this surreal nightmare would come an understanding that to do really big things, the government must step in? And what’s sauce for the coronavirus goose should be sauce for other life-threatening ganders. 

And did I mention that  this should be – must be – a cross-border sauce?

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