It sits there. On the desk. In your bag. In your hand.
With people hoping it won’t ring. And being afraid to use it to ring someone else.
This week, the phone has taken on a new significance for many people in Ireland.
Is there a home or a workplace where it has not been viewed as something that could be the bearer of bad news. Or the concealer?
Is there a family in Ireland who have not watched the unravelling news, and wondered about ringing the helpline, or their GP to check, to see, to make sure, to confront possibly bad news?
Shock is resonating throughout the country.
The helpline which so many have been trying to get through to in work hours, also infuriatingly shuts at teatime. This is an emergency situation, and as such, it needs emergency responses. Not a patronising request to put your worries on hold and call back tomorrow morning. How many women have had to discreetly find a corner at work this week to get through to the helpline, only to be kept waiting for an eternity, while trying to do their job and hold things together amidst the worry and the stress and the fear and the disappointment?
Once again, the country has failed its citizens. Hour after hour, we hear stories told through breaking hearts of loved ones lost already, others battling to the end. Families shattered, broken, angered, frustrated.
When we look to our country and feel proud of it, we expect it to do the basic things right. We want to be able to trust our health services. It should be an unwritten rule that they tell us the news, good or bad. That we are kept in the loop and not treated like children not capable of dealing with reality in a health service that is often seen as paternalistic.
The country is in shock at the daily unravelling of our trust in the health services. Every new briefing comes with an addendum. Every new message comes with a new development, a resignation, a new audit, another resignation, a lack of confidence, news of people who died, oor greater numbers or greater incompetencies.
And still the message is confusing. And each hour of confusion furthere erodes the trust taken so long to build up.
But it is still a fact that screening saves lives —In a decade this programme has detected 50,000 pre-cancerous changes in women without any symptoms, in the process reducing their cervical cancer risk by 90 per cent.
Look at the bravery of Vicky Phelan, the heartbreak she is concealing so well. We think of her family and what they must be going through as well. If we are to pay tribute to her while she battles her illness, it is by continuing to attend the screenings. Restoring confidence in this process is paramount.
Trust will be won back, it must be, but it will not until there is a seachange in the culture that sees politicians, civil servants, health professionals and clinicians ditch the policies of concealment and construct a new approach that sees them being honest and truthful with the people they serve.