As the title says, Ireland is a lovely place if your fit and healthy but if you have a twinge, a cough or a problem of any kind with your temporal being; stay away. You could be on the road to perdition.
I’ll tell you a little story. Two years ago after suffering with her knees for a couple of years, suffering brought on probably by four or five miles of a jog every morning for more years than I care to remember, my wife went to the doctor. Now the doctors in Ireland in our experience, or at least the GPs are not the best people to approach when it comes to relief from pain unless you want a hefty and dehumanising painkiller. If you want a blood test -€15, if you want a blood pressure check – €50, if you want an ECG – €20, a vaginal health and safety check -€60, it is OK, anything where they can increase the basic consultancy fee of €40 is good, they welcome you with open arms to keep the till jingling away.
Pain is different, there are no gadgets for measuring pain so they pass you on as quickly as possible and in this case the doctor referred my wife to Galway Hospital, some 90 miles away. Which is far enough away not to complain when you hear nothing from them. I have previous experience with Galway, driving down there on an early winter morning for a 9.00am appointment must surely shorten your life quicker than the medical profession could possibly do, even with their Agenda 21 programme.
To digress a little here, I hear that our old friend, Big Pharma, has brought out a new drug which can detect Alzheimer symptoms early so that life threatening drugs can be introduced into the human frame sooner. Imagine being told at 25 that you are going to suffer from Alzheimer’s in 20 years time. “It is not a pleasant thought but here take this pill because it will probably kill you before the onset, so that the few years you have left at least will be enjoyable”.
However to get back to my point. I laboured down to Galway on three occasions for them to examine, scan and consult on my varicosed left leg. They do not perform these three acts on the one day but on separate days, so I used up a lot of diesel and driver life going down , for what – nothing! Then a year later they wrote to say they wanted to examine, scan and consult again, to be sure, to be sure. I told them to kiss my arse and it seemed to do me a bit of good. Do you hear me Mr Sultan, your department is in a mess.
Anyway Helen was referred to Galway in early 2013 and nothing until two weeks ago, over two years of patience, suffering and pain. Galway wrote to ask her if she was dead or if not was she still interested in treatment. By now, the knees although troublesome, but after two years the ankles, which had been under pressure for some time because of the poorly performing knees, were showing signs of distress and giving her little mobility.
Helen jumped at the chance of some attention, said yes and a week later Galway wrote back saying that because of a massive waiting list her case had been referred to a private hospital. So lo and behold, she received a telephone call from South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen. South West that is of Ulster, a different country and there was I thinking we would have to travel 200 miles to Kerry, the country we live in.
The South West Acute said she had been referred to them from Galway which had a massive waiting list, they wanted to know if she could attend them on Saturday , two days hence, at 1.45pm to see one of their orthapaedic consultants. Two thoughts came to our minds. Yes Enniskillen is only half the distance but the roads are not good. Since partition in 1922 all roads in Ireland lead to Dublin, but there are still ancient cattle tracks across the border mainly used by rustlers and the Provos. Our other thought was because Enniskillen in Co Fermanagh is a little bit of England still, why were the National Health Service doing the job of the Health Service Executive in Ireland. We said yes without considering peripherals. Action we respond to, sluggishness appals us.
In the two days between phone call and appointment, the South West Acute rang us twice, once to make sure we were coming and secondly to bring the appointment forward an hour. It all looked good, delay in Ireland was what we are used to, alacrity is to be admired. So we went.
The South West Acute on the Omagh road outside of Enniskillen is brand new, opened in 2012. It is the finest hospital I was ever in, more like a cathedral than a hospital, with high ceilings, wonderful art work and an absence of people. It was a place you would not mind getting ill in. We were called in dead on time for our appointment and ushered in front of an enormous Ulsterman, 2 metres high at least, 110Kgs of muscle and as brown as a berry. I shook his hand and felt my fingers dislocate as he gave myself and Helen a warm greeting.
I asked him the obvious question, “Did you enjoy your holiday” and he boomed back “It was very good, thank you”. I asked him why was the National Health Service looking after poor us from Ireland, “Is it because we paid all our taxes during our working lives in England”. He said “No, the HSE are in big trouble with waiting lists and they are paying us to step into the breach”. Well, I thought, if we are going to be treated anywhere, this certainly looks the place.
“Now Helen”, he said in his 200 decibel Ulster brogue, ” Tell us what is wrong. It’s the knees isn’t it?” “Well yes” said a timorous Helen “But it is affecting my ankles as well.” “Oh” said the mighty Ulsterman, “I’m knees and hips and I will not get paid to look at your ankles.” I retorted “Well I’m a tits and arse man myself but I do not object to looking at other parts of the anatomy, if proffered.” He looked at me and gave me a shy north of the border wink and explained that the HSE only pay him for the original referral of knees. “So even if you had been shot through both ankles, in a case of this nature all I could do was rub your knees and send you down to A & E in Galway”
He then gave a swift examination which entailed listening to the bone movement in Helen’s two knees. “yes there is wear and tear and it looks like a problem at the back of the patella, but I need an x-ray to be sure, to be sure. Our x-ray department is not open Saturday afternoons, so go to your doctor and tell him to organise one and I will see you again in a months time. Good day to you Mrs Malpas and to you sir. By the way where does that name come from.” “Normandy” says I. “Are you French?” says he. “No, we are descendents of the Normans who came over with King Billy the Conqueror. That King Billy was a good old skin, he gave us land in Cheshire.” He looked at me quizzically as he towered over us and shunted us out the door.
We wiped the sweat from our brows and wondered where we were at, as we walked down the South Aisle of the cathedral and we both thought that while the National Health Service is at least fur coat and no knickers, the Health Service Executive has neither. It looks as though we are back to ancient natural remedies and I have started saving for a wheelchair. I can see me taking up the position of pusher shortly.