The chronic state of the Irish health system - an everyday story
ireland / britain |
community struggles |
opinion / analysis
Thursday August 04, 2005 18:29 by Tobie - WSM (personal capacity)
This is an account from a WSM member who had to visit Accident and Emergancy after an accident which injured her head. She is from Canada but otherwise this is an everyday account of a health system on the edge of collapse where over worked workers have little time for patients.
No Time For These Small Details In Emergency
There is nothing like a knock on the head to wake you up and make you
re-evaluate the things around you. Sitting here with a bump on my
left temple that is as stubborn as ever and refuses to go away I can
only sit back and think about the severe state of the health care
system here in Ireland. I must admit I'm coming from a completely
biased perspective, someone who grew up in with a public health care
system, but here it is anyways.
The night of my accident, I lie in bed disoriented, in pain and
confused. I have heard nothing but horror stories about emergency
departments, not that this is something specific to Ireland, but none
the less it shied me away from taking the leap and heading down to my
local AC. I lie there wondering then what do I do instead . . . I
know that I've given myself a right shake up but am a bit too
disorientated to make any clear decisions.
I actually phoned emergency to see if the right thing to do is go
into them, they basically say if it can wait till Monday go to my
doctor and get him/her to write me a letter for an x-ray. (My mate
the nurse says this is a case for liability since you should never
push off anything that is related to a head injury. and the thing is
I know all this but I'm so banged up I can't seem to make the simple
decision) The nightmare stories paralyze me and I do nothing. Days go
by and my pain stays constant and my fear builds up. I talk to a mate
who is a nurse and she sends me straight to the clinic down the
street . . . actually the third clinic I phoned since the other two
couldn't give me appointments for a few days.
A few hours and forty five euros later I'm sent to the hospital .
. . to emergency where I could and should have been four days
earlier. Emergency said go to the doctor since then I skip emergency
but the doctor says he would not send me straight to the x-rays and
skip the day in emergency because I would not get the results for
days subsequently could not get any medication that I would need for
days. Only through emergency do you get the tests you need done and
get to see a doctor that will tell you the story and write any
prescriptions that you might need.
The next eight hours were an eye opener - I get to emergency
excited that there are very few people there - assuming that I made
the right decision about coming during the middle of the day on a
week day and not the middle of the night on a weekend. Yet the
promise of seeing a nurse with in 15 minutes drags on to at least 30
minutes and her promise of 1-2 hours after that turns into 3. Not to
mention that I called the hospital once again to see what the story
was with money. I had a letter from my doctor, but he was sending me
to emergency, how much would I have to pay . . . after what my mate
how heard all the 15 minutes of transferring of calls said if you
didn't have brain damage before that call you would know, they tell
me I will have to pay 40 euro . . . yet huge signs all over emergency
say 55 euro . . . so I'm at 100 euro before medication . . .
I get my x-ray results relatively quickly and I am told (in a door
way) that I didn't fracture my skull but they want to do a CT scan
just in case . . . that's all the consultation I get 20 seconds in a
door way . . . the next 3 1/2 hours start to get interesting. I
realize that I have not been offered any pain killers and that at the
rate they are going all pharmacies will be closed when I get out and
this great plan of my doctors for same day results and prescriptions
is just bollox . . . so I start to chat with people.
The guy next to me is from Pakistan, he has been in Ireland four
years, came here alone and has never looked back, he likes it here .
. . His story is that for the past month he has pains in his legs
from the knees up on both sides and a fever . He gets weak walking
and has been near collapsing frequently. Half the reason he is here
is to figure out what is wrong with him, but the other half is to get
a doctors note. You see he works as a security guard and his boss
won't give him a day off due to sickness, says he needs a doctor's
note. So here he is on his one day off in the week spending at least
8 hours in emergency waiting for results of blood tests and a note so
he might have a chance to rest and get better. Still with all this he
is all smiles with tears behind his eyes demanding that I share his
crisps with him.
Two women chat around us and sometimes to us about all this
"bollox". They are both here for about the same thing, their stomachs
are in bits, kidney infections, and a list of unanswered for
complaints. Both arms have been brutalized from blood been taken from
them. One says how she has never done drugs in her life but between
the blood tests and hours of crying leading to blood shot eyes she
looks like a right junkie and I would say they are treating her
likewise. They both came in three to four hours before me and I left
them there. Several times the junkie looking one asks when she will
get the results of her urine samples and for a cup of tea and hours
pass with neither. At first it seems that only those who are bad
enough off to have a bed get sandwiches and tea, but it is then a
slap in the face to the four of us when this elderly woman is told to
sit with us is given tea and biscuits.
Hours pass and finally it is time for my scan, a steward (Hospital
porter?) takes me this time, which is handy since the last test they
told me to follow the blue line which due to years of fading had
disappeared about 50 meters along my journey and I had to ask many
over worked nurses (who seem to only know their specific department)
I get talking to the steward, at first he is stand offish, I don't
know what it was that opened him up, perhaps that I mentioned that in
the book Hard Work that the woman's first job was a hospital
steward or the fact that he suddenly realized I was Canadian but he
started talking and when I got stewarded back to my seat he was right
as rain. He says that his job and his job description are no where
near each other, he does so much more. He complains that the
government decisions on health expenditure is all wrong, they spend
money on all the wrong things, that it is clear that those who make
the decisions on money are not on the floor, he figures that he could
do a better job. He ponders the public health care system in Canada
and can't place why there is nothing like that here. Our time
together ends as he is off with someone else.
This time this guy who I saw sitting just off from us in a wheel
chair is dragged off and the one and only chair is left in emergency.
When this guy waddles back with his x-rays he notices that they are
of his knee . . . you would think that they would want to put as
little strain as possible on his knee but comfort didn't seem part of
the plan, not enough time for that. I witness some of the most
undignified moments of people and this is a Tuesday afternoon I can
only imagine a Saturday night.
This one guy who is in full view of me with no curtain pulled
continuously pukes; he is given a bag eventually. No drip in his arm
to hydrate him, just tea like everyone else which may be comforting
but dehydrates you and surprise surprise he puke after his first sip
. . . when he is calling for help many walk by too busy to take
notice of the guy with little liquid left in his body.
I would have to say the best moment was this old man with his
shirt open exposing several suction cups attached to his chest. As
his bed is dragged by me I give him a sympathy smile he gives me a
shrug hands turned up as if to say what can you do . . .
The four of us who were told to sit together, moved around do to
'police investigation look out' for each other. We get each others
names and when a nurse is looking for someone but they are outside we
let the nurse know so they don't' miss their turn like we had seen
happen to so many others who had not organized themselves like us.
Its survival of the fittest in there which is not saying much since
we are all in emergency.
So on my eighth hour a doctor finally comes to say I can go home -
again its 30 seconds in a doorway. No brain damage, take paracetamol
every few hours and give this to your doctor who he says I should see
tomorrow. No time to talk, my doctor will explain the story to me and
the hell is over.
I leave after 8 hours to be told take paracetamol for my headache!
I open the confidential letter to my doctor to find out the true
story. . . I was right I did have a concussion. And the diagnosis now
is that I have post concussion syndrome. It takes a call to my
brother for him to look on line and tell me what that is and what I
should expect and how to get better . . . there is no time for these
small details in emergency.
First published on indymedia.ie - there is some additional
proofreading in this version