Going home to be ill

Dec 13th, 2007 | By | Category: Ireland

Three years ago my sister was visiting Ireland. Flying back to Bristol from Belfast, she felt unwell. Her partner would not allow her to go home until the illness was treated. She had developed breast cancer, but family responsibilities had been such that she had said nothing. He drove her to Bristol Royal Infirmary, who were the most wonderful people. There were scans and diagnosis and immediate commencement of treatment. The treatment was severe, but they were able to avoid surgery. Three years on, she is in brilliantly good health.

The response she got as an ordinary NHS patient in England is markedly different from that of very many Irish women here, in what is supposed to be one of the richest countries in the world. Following the writings of a young mother in the Irish Midlands leaves one seething with anger. Her post of Tuesday, 11th December arouses anger at the ineptitude of the Health Service Executive and particularly at the health minister, Mary Harney, who seems content to brazen out scandal after scandal.

Each new day seems to bring another story of failure, yesterday’s Irish Examiner carried a story of an ambulance man who had received €600,000 in compensation after his wife had died unnecessarily from a perforated ulcer. This, in one of the wealthiest countries in the world?

I love Ireland. I love the people and I love the place, but when it came to renewing my passport last year, I drove to the British Embassy in Ballsbridge to remain one of Her Britannic Majesty’s subjects. The health system here makes me think it was a wise decision.

We have a basic health insurance package, on clergy salaries we couldn’t run to much more. It doesn’t provide for much, it certainly does not provide for cancer care in one of Dublin’s plush private hospitals. Health care is expensive, it is €55 to see a GP in our local practice. Many lower middle class people think twice about making a doctor’s appointment – the appointment, plus up to €85 in prescription costs, would take a large chunk out of many people’s weekly take home pay.

In the event of serious illness, I know what I am going to do. It will be a Ryanair flight to Bristol and a taxi to their excellent Infirmary.

In fact, even if I were an Irish citizen, I still think I would be tempted to do the same.

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  1. I read the writing of the young Mother and was horrified by what she is going through. She needs immediate treatment. We people over here dont realise how lucky we are even if some areas have a 2-3 day wait to see the GP. In my area I can get to see my GP the same day. Working for a PLC sometimes does have its benefits, as myself and my family are also covered by private medical Insurance.Which I have had to use twice.I dont think I would visit my GP many times if it cost me the best part of £100!!Its scandalous.

  2. Ian I cannot believe the health costs in Ireland. I visited another blogger the other day who paid 150 Euro for the removal of a stitch in her hand by a specialist. Stunningly expensive. I’m amazed that there isn’t more activism practised among the Irish about the health system THEY are paying for through their taxes. A normal consultation here is 26 Euro (sorry can’t find the symbol on my keyboard) Specialists around 44 Euro and 85% is paid back through our public health system. My recent hysterectomy cost a total of 1018 Euro of which I will receive 568 Euro back after private claims and medicare and we’re only a population of 20,000. My father was treated ‘free’ for Cancer through the public system. It’s an abomination and I can’t understand why there isn’t more public outcry. Hold onto your British citizenship at all costs!

  3. Oh, my surgery was done in an exclusive private hospital too by the surgeon of my choice.

  4. Except for the Left and the odd religious group. Ireland doesn’t do much activism. I did an interview with the writer and commentator David McWilliams in November of last year in which he called us a ‘spectator democracy’.


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