Planet Beverley

June 25, 2007

I don’t know what planet Bertie and Beverley are on but the rules there seem to be very different to the rules I have to follow. Beverley Flynn, T.D. in Mayo was declared bankrupt following the legal action she took against RTE, which failed. She subsequently was expelled from the Fianna Fail party after losing her libel action. Next we hear following the recent election that An Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern has her support as an independent deputy and that he would like to welcome her back into Fianna Fail “her natural home” once she settles her debts. And surprise, surprise, today Beverley announces during an extended interview on the News at One, that she has reached an agreement with RTE to settle for half of the costs involved and owes no apology to anyone. The arrogance of it is unbelievable! And when asked if she considers that she might serve in the Cabinet during the lifetime of this government, she replied “one step at a time – I’ve been through a tough time”. My heart bleeds for you Bev – yeh right! One thing has become abundantly clear to me however – I’ll have to get myself some Brasso to polish up my neck!

Going forwards – with love

June 23, 2007

I visited my dear old mum today in the dementia unit of the nursing home where she has lived for the past three years. Mum is wheelchair bound due to degenerative disease… and time. Disease and dementia have robbed her of so many of her abilities but she is still a person with her own particular physical and emotional needs. Alzheimer’s disease is very hard to accept. My Mum is no longer the parent I once knew – she has to depend on others to reassure her when she is confused, or frustrated, or feeling lost – she has to learn to accept that other people must take care of all the things she now finds so difficult to manage. The staff of the dementia unit have to shower her, dress her, change her, encourage her and endure her angry outbursts and yet they still tuck her into bed with a teddy and a loving hug. I find it hugely rewarding to know that while she may not always recognise me, she can still feel my love. I spotted the following words mounted on the wall at the nurses station today which really said it all…

People with dementia are not going backwards, they are not going round in circles. They are going forwards, on a journey many of us will have to go on but none of us want to make. They carry their childhood with them, as they do all the ages of their lives. We shall care best, and be cared for best, if we accept the child in all of us but never forget we have grown into adults.

Love you Mum

Anatomy of a True Friend

June 20, 2007

Okay, so I want you to imagine that your friend is stuck in hospital following surgery/having treatment. It’s more than likely that they are ‘bored out of their brains’ and missing family and friends, and the normal routine of life. They’re also probably ‘tired out of their brains’ having tossed and turned in bed all night (that is, if they’ve been lucky enough to get allocated a bed) while everyone else in the ward snored the night away. What do they have to look forward to in the day? The next meal? – I don’t think so. The next session of doctor’s rounds? – definitely not. Maybe some horrible procedure? – no thank you. Let’s face it, it’s a pretty awful experience being in hospital and the days can be interminably long.

So what’s the best thing you can do to brighten up your friend’s life? They may not be well enough to want to receive visitors. But I can bet your bottom dollar that they’d like to receive some text messages from you. For less than €1 a day you can make a huge difference to someone’s day.

When I was in hospital being barrier nursed in isolation because of an MRSA infection, I nearly went out of my mind with boredom. I had a wonderful friend who supported me through those lonely days by sending regular text messages. My friend was on holiday beside the sea at the time. Instead of quizzing me in her texts about my state of health, she sent lovely descriptions of the wildlife she could see in the early mornings, or maybe even some detail of food she’d found in a market or perhaps news of people she’d met on her travels. It was fantastic to have this distraction from my monotonous existence in hospital. It was a vital link with the outside world. If I was feeling too ill/tired to receive a call I’d turn my phone onto ‘silent’ and then it was always a lovely surprise to find a message waiting when things looked up again. I was a friend ‘in need’ and she was a friend ‘indeed’!

So, the next time you hear that a friend/loved one has been hospitalised, don’t get stunned into silence. Go on! Be a true friend and brighten up their day with a text message. It could turn out to be a lifeline.

I must be dreaming

June 19, 2007

Would someone pinch me please. On the front page of the Irish Times today I read “HSE fails to spend nearly fifth of capital budget – The Health Service Executive failed to spend €97.7 million that was allocated to it by the Government for new developments and facilities last year, it has emerged”. Unable to believe I’m really reading this, I turned on the lunchtime news to hear Mary Harney, our Minister for Health, comment on the situation. “We don’t want to spend this money just for the sake of spending it” the Minister said.  Now I really must be dreaming I’m hearing this.

How about spending it just for the sake of saving some lives!  The mind boggles when you consider all the areas of the health service that are crying out for funding.  Just imagine what could be done with €97.7 million. Dream on!

Infection Control saves Lives

June 18, 2007

We all know at this stage that infection control is a big problem in Irish hospitals. Outbreaks of MRSA and many other dangerous infections are on the increase. Huge investment is now required in the health service to bring about radical change in the control of infection. Here is my list of things-to-do for Mary Harney now that she’s back (where she wants to be) as our Minister for Health. This is not rocket science. These are obvious changes that could be put in place if only the funding was made available.

1. Practice preventative medicine – provide mandatory testing for MRSA colonisation for all patients being admitted to hospital. The present system for testing nasal swabs takes too long for results to be processed (2-3 days). A faster, but more expensive testing mechanism is available and could be used for all patients being admitted through A&E.

2. Microbiology is a key component of infection control. Many more microbiology staff are required and lab facilities need to be urgently expanded and updated.

3. Improve basic hygiene practice by staff on the wards – provide alcohol gel dispensers beside every bed, more hand washing facilities needed for everyone, improve cleaning of equipment etc.

4. Reduce the bed occupancy rate to less than 80% – in Ireland it’s over 100% most of the time (is it any wonder the nurses are moaning about their job lot!) – more beds in public hospitals are needed now.

5. Provide proper isolation facilities for infected patients – it’s like a bad joke the way the situation is being managed at the moment.

6. Clean hospitals = cost-effective health care. Our hospitals are filthy! Stop the present practice of sub-contracting the cleaning of our hospitals to outside agencies. Each hospital needs to take back responsibility for it’s own state of affairs.

7. And please stop messing around with plans for a 2-tier health system and get working on a 1st class health system for everyone!

Slí na Sláinte

June 17, 2007

I had to laugh when I saw that a large Dublin south-side hospital had recently opened a new Slí na Sláinte route. It’s a long time since I did any Irish at school but I think I’m right in saying that Slí na Sláinte translates as ‘Path to Health’. The Irish Heart Foundation quotes that “it is hoped by making walking an available and attractive choice, within and around the hospital, that the daily 30 minutes physical activity recommendation, will be easier to achieve”. While walking is definitely a healthy option (and it’s great that staff and patients alike are being encouraged to exercise), I’m afraid it’s not to a hospital I’d go if I was looking for a healthy way to improve my lifestyle. What with the MRSA problem and the winter vomiting bug lurking in our hospitals, I think I’ll look elsewhere to improve my health -thank you very much!

Family matters

June 16, 2007

Each week in the Health Supplement of the Irish Times another person from the world of ‘Health’ is profiled in the On the Couch column. I usually enjoy these articles for the insight they allow into other people’s lives. While many of the people featured have achieved great heights in their careers, it’s always good to see how ‘family’ remain a big part of their lives. If asked When or where are you happiest? without fail the response is “with family and friends”. Who or what makes you laugh? Again, it’s usually family, and especially the children who feature the strongest.

Well this week those simple, yet very special pleasures in life have been taken away from Maurice Neligan, a pioneering Irish heart surgeon (now retired), who writes his own column Heart Beat for the same said Health Supplement. His daughter, Sara (aged 31) and a nurse herself, was stabbed to death in her Dublin apartment this week. I was deeply saddened to hear of this news.

Maurice Neligan is not afraid to give his frank and honest opinion on the present crisis in the Irish health service. He is an ‘expert’ voice on health matters in this country and deserves to be heard. He does not deserve this tragic loss in his life. My heart goes out to him, and to his wife and all his family at this awful time. Maurice Neligan has issued a statement saying that the family is devastated and they have requested privacy. I sincerely hope this will be respected.

This week’s contributor to the On the Couch column responded to the question of What is your greatest fear? with the reply “severe injury or death to any of my loved ones in my own lifetime”. Enough said.

Don’t Hold Your Breath!

June 14, 2007

It’s exactly 3 weeks since polling day and almost six weeks since the 29th Dail was dissolved. Today Bertie Ahern goes back to the Aras to kick-start the new government. You can’t but have noticed the intensity of the negotiations that have been going on for the past few weeks as the various political parties have agonised over finding a solution in time for today’s deadline. No amount of time given was too much. Isn’t it a great pity that they couldn’t apply the same intensity to sorting out the mess that is our Health Service? For starters, we critically need a proper debate on the whole subject of co-located hospitals. The saying “nothing focuses the mind like a deadline” holds so true. What the HSE needs now is a new deadline for making progress – or maybe a kick up the Aras would work better!

A Hard Pill to Swallow

June 12, 2007

I’ve just heard that Prof. Brendan Drumm (CEO HSE) has been wheeled out again to announce on the news that the Health Service is NOT IN CRISIS. I really can’t believe I’m hearing this.

I don’t think that the patients lying on trolleys today in A&E will believe him. Nor will the Consultants, who are hardly happy campers at the moment. Or the demoralised NCHD’s and Nurses for that matter. Try telling this to the thousands of people in this country who are on long waiting lists with serious medical problems. What about all the pensioners in need of home help services as they struggle to live out their days in their own homes? Or the OAP’s who are stuck in hospital because the system can’t find them a suitable step-down bed? I don’t think that people with serious head/spinal injury awaiting crucial specialised rehabilitation will thank him either. Or maybe you are one of those unlucky enough to have cancer and have to travel long distances for treatment? Perhaps your child is suffering from a long-term illness and has to endure cramped, outdated hospital conditions with each admission to hospital. And I don’t expect that you’d be too happy hearing this if you’re stuck in a public hospital bed right now and can’t face using the toilets/showers such is the disgusting state that they are in.

This is indeed a bitter pill to swallow.

Survival of the Fittest

June 7, 2007

I listened with interest this morning to Dr. Tim Lynch, Consultant Neurologist at the Mater and Beaumont Hospitals who was interviewed by Tom McGurk on ‘Today with Pat Kenny‘. He talked about our Minister for Health’s plans to further privatise health care with co-located hospitals, as being ‘Darwinian’ in nature ie. “the survival of the fittest”- those who have health insurance will get good healthcare, those who don’t – won’t! Mary Harney is basing her healthcare strategy on the Boston US model which favours a 2-tier system while Tim Lynch is of the opinion that our healthcare should be based on the Berlin European Model. He wants the HSE to stop bringing in consultants from elsewhere to give glossy reports and to instead consult the ‘experts’ that we already have here – those nurses and doctors who have returned home to Ireland after many years of specialist training abroad. He is totally against the development of more private hospitals “we don’t need them”. What we really need is rehabilitation hospitals. At any given time, there are 50-100 patients ready to go home from the Mater and Beaumont but there are no step-down facilities available. Tim Lynch reckons that if a 400-500 bed rehabilitation hospital was built on the northside of Dublin, between the Mater and Beaumont, the A&E problem would be over. The lack of resources and infrastructure in our present health service is worse than a bad joke. Tim admitted that he often hums Monty Python tunes to himself on his ward rounds. I don’t know how he stays so sane. It must definitely be a case of “always look on the bright side of life”.