Hours waiting to be seen in A&E. Days – sometimes weeks – on trollies in hospital corridors. Up to two years waiting time to see certain consultants. Unopened mail. Unanswered emails.Appointments postponed by months or even cancelled for no apparent reason. Mis-diagnoses. Missed diagnoses. People dying because they can’t afford private healthcare. X-rays not read by a qualified person. Unnecessary procedures performed without even a cursory nod in the general direction of evidence-based medicine. Necessary procedures unperformed because of lack of properly trained personnel. Dirty hospitals. Stained bed-sheets.
Sounds like some God-forsaken Asian backwater, doesn’t it? But it’s not. It’s here. Here, in puffed-up little Ireland where we like to think we’re some sort of sophisticated first-rate, First World nation. The truth – though few will admit it – is that Ireland is really a Third World country with her best frock on. During the Celtic Tiger years, she was a third world country with her best frock and some-one else’s borrowed jewels on.
I am always aware of how poor healthcare is in Ireland – not least because I lived outside of Ireland for most of my adult life and I know what superb healthcare looks like. I’m acutely aware of how atrocious Irish healthcare – more specifically the Irish hospital system is – since I received a letter from a children’s hospital this morning.
For years, my daughter has had a physical problem that I simply could not get diagnosed in Ireland. My GP was clueless – but refused to admit he was (he’s not my GP anymore, by the way). Eventually, I found a consultant I thought could help and rang his secretary. Going private did away with the need for a referral letter and more than halved the waiting time.
Still, nearly €500 later, my daughter did not have a diagnosis. The consultant – who was an eminent professor in his area of specialisation – could do nothing better than hazard a guess.
The following year, we were back in India. I consulted a paediatrician there. At 11am on a Wednesday morning, she ordered a full-body MRI. My daughter had her scan at 6pm that same evening. The hospital where this took place was spotless. The equipment was brand-spanking new Siemens and the cost was €90. How long would I wait and how much would it cost for a similar procedure in Dublin? I shudder to think.
Anyway, I was unconvinced by this doctor’s diagnosis. So I sought out another doctor. This man was a specialist in the area. Within 5 minutes – literally – this doctor was able to accurately diagnose my daughter’s condition and he put her on medication. The consultation and six months’ supply of medication cost me less than €20.
My daughter is still on this medication. I took the prescription back to Ireland from India, explained to my new GP what the Indian doctor had said and she was happy enough to accept his diagnosis and write a prescription for the same drug.
Three years later, my daughter is still on the tablets – although the dosage has been more than doubled. She has not, however, seen a consultant in all that time. Last October, my GP suggested it would be prudent to get my child reviewed by a consultant. We were given an appointment for this month. This morning, a letter arrived to let me know that the appointment has been moved from April until August. What kind of nonsense is this?
I will admit that my daughter’s condition is not currently life-threatening, but she does need monitoring. She does need her health to be reviewed by someone competent enough to do so. She needs further tests – as was acknowledged in the letter from the consultant’s office – and she may need different medication or a different dosage of the same medicine. At the very least, I need to speak with someone who is qualified to discuss this area of her health with me.
It seems, however, that I’ll need to go to a Third World country to access that kind of healthcare.