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.