HSE Forum members – Dublin and Northeast – This letter is embarassing

Cross-Border hospital hopping

Sir, – Saturday, a busy day. The sun is shining and clothes are
drying out on the line. A careless slip and bang: I am on the ground.
Being fretted over by the collie, clothes pegs everywhere, legs akimbo
and there goes sunny Saturday.

Hello dilemma. I know I need medical attention: I can barely walk.
I know I have to go to hospital: my foot is swelling fast. Visible
from the clothes line is the yellowy colour of the Louth Hospital’s
walls. I can’t go there any more. Can I face the Lourdes? I’ve been in
and out of the emergency department in the Lourdes for nigh on the
past year with an elderly relative. I cannot face the thoughts of the
chaos, the noise, the staff (yes they’re over-worked and underpaid)
but there never seems enough time for courtesy.

I decide to cross the Border and head to Daisy Hill hospital in
Newry. I am greeted (yes, actually greeted) by a receptionist who
calmly takes my details. She tells me that I will have to pay £84 but
am assured that this will cover the full cost of treatment. Fine. It
costs €100 to visit an emergency department in the South. I am
dreading what the waiting room is like: by this time it is 10pm on
Saturday. There are fewer than a dozen people there, the X-Factoris on
the telly and we wait in polite silence.

I hobble through to triage after 15 minutes. The nurse tells me,
I’ll have to go to X-ray and then see a doctor. She tells me that I
will have to “wait”. Here we go, I think, a marathon 24-hour stint is
in store. She says it could take as long as an hour and a half! True
to her word, I was X-rayed and greeted (yet again!) by a doctor who
introduced herself by her first name. She talked me through the
diagnosis and gave me a treatment plan and medication. I was
discharged all within the “magic” 90 minutes.

It’s a sad day when I am compelled to seek medical care and
attention outside of the State that I work in and pay contributions
for the upkeep of its services. It’s a sad day that due to my
experience of dealing with the services that the HSE provides, I use
that word advisedly, that I am extolling the virtues of the supposedly
under-funded, hard-pressed and dysfunctional NHS.

The broader issue is that there is nowhere to express my lack of
faith not only with the health care system but also with all
institutional processes in post-Tiger Ireland. I could always lobby a
TD, who can I choose in Louth? A TD who crossed the Border in the
opposite direction to gain power, not to represent me. My voice is of
no concern to Sinn Féin, I don’t fit its profile. Can I lobby Fergus
O’Dowd? I think not: the Government has done nothing since the
election other than decry the actions of Fianna Fáil and the Greens.

By the time my ankle heals and I am fit enough to drive my daily
three-hour commute, the budget will have been passed. No doubt my
income will be pinched further and we will be told of the need for
further austerity. The shoppers will be heading North to stock up on
cheaper food and drink for Christmas. I too will be choosing the
cross-Border route, not for cheaper goods but for excellent healthcare
delivered with professionalism and speed. Thank God I live close to
the Border – not for cheap booze and Sainsburys but for the NHS.
Strange times. – Yours, etc,


Belfry Drive,

Dundalk, Co Louth.