Have you noticed the sudden upsurge in radio and TV ads for private healthcare? Frankly, they sicken me. “Because you deserve better” quotes one ad for a state-of-the-art private hospital. Because who exactly deserves better? Answer: Those who can afford private health insurance. But what about those who can’t, I ask? Don’t they deserve better too?
I hold private health insurance and I make no apology for it. I’ve a complex medical condition which requires regular medical supervision. Unfortunately, I cannot rely on our public health service to provide the care needed. Our health system has been so stripped of services that ‘public’ patients face long delays in accessing out-patient appointments and treatment. Privately insured patients can access care faster by paying for it. Such is the inequity of a 2-tier health service. Emergency care is different, it’s provided on the basis of need only. The delay in the public system, is putting people’s lives at risk. Remember Susie Long? I’m not prepared to risk my health because of our government’s failure to provide an equitable health service for all. I therefore see my health insurance as a priority, not a luxury. I choose to do without other non-necessities in life so as to afford the health insurance. I’m lucky to have that choice. Many don’t.
In these difficult times of recession, many people are struggling to maintain a roof over their heads/to afford enough food to feed the family. The advertisements for private healthcare appear very inappropriate in the circumstances. Of course, the real reason why these companies are advertising, has nothing to do with your welfare or mine. They are desperately trying to survive too.
A new health warning has been issued in Ireland. Public information leaflets and posters have been distributed to ports and airports. You have an important role to play in stopping the agenda of privatisation and for-profit medicine. Stop the spread of this pandemic disease now.
Radical health reform, in terms of creating a universal system of healthcare which offers equality and accessibility, is one of the greatest challenges facing Ireland today. Play your part.
It’s strange the things that come back to you many weeks after having a general anaesthetic. I’ve had so many surgeries at this stage, I barely flinch when told I need another trip to the operating theatre. I’ve noticed over the years that the theatre staff have lots of tricks up their sleeves to keep you calm. You can’t fool an old timer however.
I was the last patient on the list to be wheeled into the operating theatre on that day. My medical condition had deteriorated on the ward and was a real cause for concern. The surgical team looked on as I was transferred to the operating table and prepared for a general anaesthetic. Worried eyes peered above the masks all around me but I knew I was in safe hands. Within moments, I’d been wired to a heart monitor and a blood pressure cuff was fixed to my left upper arm. My right arm already had a PICC line fitted as I was undergoing prolonged IV treatment. With the blood pressure cuff inflated on one arm and the anaesthetist injecting the anaesthetic into my other arm, an oxygen mask was gently placed over my face. It was then I was asked if I would prefer to hold the mask myself. As I rapidly began to fade out of this world, I remember thinking “is she having me on?”
Have you any funny memories of ‘going under’ that you’d like to recall? No scare stories PLEASE.
Having spent the best part of the last month undergoing treatment in a semi-private ward of a large public hospital, I’ve seen first-hand how our health service operates. It’s the same old story. Once you get through A&E and into the system, the care is excellent. But it’s not all a bed of roses.
In Ireland, we have a 2-tier public health service with a unique mix of public/private patients and public/private consultants. Approximately one third of hospital consultants work in public-only practice. That leaves 70% of consultants allowed to practice publicly and privately. These consultants enjoy the best of both worlds. They do not have a boss, their hours are not monitored and many enjoy extraordinary salaries. Granted, our Minister for Health, Mary Harney has tried to exert control over hospital consultants by introducing new contracts (terms and conditions with the State) and new posts of clinical directors (about 100) to manage and monitor hours. However, having watched the consultants do their ward rounds over the last month, I’ve come to the firm conclusion that we’re all being held to ransom. It’s time someone blew the whistle.
I witnessed consultants reassuring elderly patients that there was no hurry for them to go home. I’m talking here about patients who had very obviously recovered from the acute illness that brought them into hospital. These patients had homes to go to with family in support, they were not waiting to be allocated a nursing home bed. We hear so much about the shortage of beds in our acute hospitals. Why are the consultants not working hard to free-up beds?
I saw the look of disbelief on the faces of the junior doctors (NCHDs) as a consultant announced further tests on a young girl who’d been in hospital for many weeks and whose tests had all come back normal. This girl appeared very well to me so why was she occupying a hospital bed? Why were her investigations continuing as an in-patient?
Could it be that hospital consultants choose to have a proportion of beds occupied by patients who require minimal input of care/time? Patients whose health insurance will continue to reimburse both the hospital and private consultant as long as they occupy a bed? Is this the realistic truth? I presume that the NCHDs remain silent on this issue because their jobs depend on pleasing the consultant?
I don’t know about you but my conscience finds it very difficult to accept that ‘well’ patients are occupying hospital beds when I know that acutely ill patients are lying on trolleys in A&E?
We have some fantastic consultant doctors in this country who are totally dedicated to their profession and I’ve no wish to tarnish their reputation. However, as a patient, I feel a need to protect our health service. The fact is, I depend on it.
It’s true what they say. There ain’t no place like home. After four long weeks spent in shared hospital wards, it’s heaven to be back in my own bedroom, in my own bed. No more doctors’ rounds, no more observations taken and no more drips to endure. Peace and quiet at last. I owe a lot of people, a lot of thanks.
Firstly, to the surgical team whom I could not fault. They saw me every day, usually twice a day, throughout those many weeks and my respect for them grew with each passing day. These non-consultant hospital doctors (NCHDs) work incredibly hard and frankly, I don’t know how they stick the conditions they endure. The consultant surgeon is fantastic but he’s just the icing on the cake. The NCHDs are the ones who should really take a bow.
My final diagnosis was osteomyelitis of the frontal bone plus orbital cellulitis following complex surgery on my skull last June. Both conditions had the potential to be life threatening. Prevention and treatment is heavily dependent on antibiotics. I suffer from a form of microscopic colitis called collagenous colitis (CC) which has developed in response to antibiotic treatment for my head over many years. It’s a catch-22 situation. Antibiotics are needed to keep me alive but they also produce side effects which limit treatment. Treatment over the last four weeks, has been a delicate balance of IV drugs and I owe big thanks to the microbiology team at the hospital who devised (and revised) a treatment plan to suit my personal needs. I also owe thanks to the gastroenterology team who came to my rescue when the bottom fell out of my world, quite literally. My overall condition has now stabilised and I’ve been able to return home on oral treatments.
The last few weeks have really made me realise how much my family and friends, and especially my blogging friends, mean to me. It’s been a real privilege to turn on my laptop and know that there is always companionship available. Grannymar was there for me every day on instant messenger and I can’t thank her enough. Lily sent a beautiful bouquet of flowers to brighten up my world. Such a kind gesture! Baino kept me entertained with funny emails and Annb sent gorgeous pics of the West of Ireland, my favourite place. It’s been really fantastic to receive so many supportive emails and comments on my blog. Thank you to one and all 😀
Lastly, but not least, to my husband Jaimie who has stuck by me through thick and thin. I owe him a definite holiday.
Steph might be going home from hospital tomorrow. No kidding! I mean home to stay, to sleep in my own bed. The osteomyelitis is in retreat and I’m on the fast road out of here.
The surgical team paid a visit early this morning to review my blood tests and discuss the plan to change from intra-venous to oral antibiotics. Within an hour, my head had been examined endoscopically and the surgeon reported back that good progress had been made. The raw bone inside my head is covered with granulation tissue, a sign that normal healing is taking place.
By lunchtime, microbiology had approved a change onto oral antibiotics and my current treatment for colitis had been reviewed by the gastroenterology team. Matilda now sits forlorn beside my bed, no longer required. Instead, I’ve a feast of antibiotics to swallow at regular periods throughout the day. A 24-hour test run is underway to see if the colitis can withstand the new regime. If I maintain a stable path overnight, the central line to my chest will be removed and I will be allowed home by tomorrow evening to continue treatment from the comfort of my own home.
I just thought you might like to know. Fingers (and legs) crossed.
UPDATE: (Wednesday 11 am) It’s for definite! The central line is now out of my chest and I’m on my way home today. Yabba, dabba do! Next post from home.
I got to go home yesterday afternoon between sessions on the drip. The sun shone despite a forecast of heavy rain, some good friends visited and I got to enjoy freshly picked vegetables from our garden. Coming back to the hospital is never easy but when you arrive in to a nice surprise, it’s kinda nice!
I walked back into the ward yesterday evening laden down with freshly washed pyjamas for the coming week in hospital. The other patients greeted me with beaming faces and as I neared my bed, I discovered why. There was a beautiful arrangement of flowers on my bedside table. This was a total surprise! The bouquet contained white lilies and sunflowers and the most gorgeous mixture of unusual flowers in various shades of purple. I hunted around for an accompanying card to identify the sender but having found it, was none the wiser.
“Lillies from a blogger. Wishing you all the best, Steph. Thinking of you.”
By this stage, the nurses and the rest of the ward had joined in the fun. “Steph has a secret admirer”, they ragged me. I’ve two clues as to the identity of the sender of these fabulous flowers. One of the nurses told me that a lady had phoned the nurses station yesterday to enquire if I was allowed flowers on the ward. And, I think the words “Lillies from a blogger” might contain a big clue?
I’d like to say to whoever it was who sent these flowers that it was the loveliest of surprises to receive. I’ve always known that being a part of the blog world, is a special place to be but now I’ve been deeply moved by this hugely thoughtful gesture. If you’re reading this, THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart. I feel very spoilt.