August 9, 2009
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.
9 Comments | 2-tier health system, A&E, consultants, health, Health Service, Minister for Health | Tagged: hospital consultants, Mary Harney, NCHD, patient | Permalink
Posted by Steph
August 7, 2009
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.
21 Comments | collagenous colitis (CC), diagnosis, health, hospital, osteomyelitis, Steph's Story | Tagged: gasteroenterology, microbiology, NCHD, orbital cellulitis, surgical team | Permalink
Posted by Steph
March 20, 2009
The Irish Nurses Organisation (INO) is escalating it’s campaign against the proposed spending cuts in the health service. It has launched a new website Stop Health Cutbacks to monitor the level of cutbacks proposed by the Health Service Executive (HSE). Hospital staff and members of the public are invited to post comments online on what their experience of cutbacks has been and to air their views on how the services could be improved. All material will be validated before publishing and patient confidentiality will be protected at all times. Liam Doran, General Secretary (INO), has stressed that the overriding aim of this initiative is to demonstrate in detail where the system is failing patients.
The non-consultant hospitals doctors (NCHD) are also up in arms with the latest decision by the HSE, to cut their overtime and allowances.
Six junior doctors have begun a High Court challenge, along with the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), against the HSE. The IMO and the doctors claim that the HSE’s proposals are a breach of contract. They further claim that the proposed changes are impractical and will damage the functioning of the various departments in the hospitals where they work.
Next month’s emergency budget will radically affect healthcare in this country and it will be patients who bare the brunt of the further cutbacks. It is essential that everyone plays their part to ensure the highest possible standards of patient care in the difficult times ahead. Make your views known before it is too late.
3 Comments | cut backs, health, Health Service, HSE, IMO, INO, junior doctors, patient | Tagged: NCHD | Permalink
Posted by Steph
February 25, 2009
The HSE is facing more than a €1 billion shortfall in it’s finances this year. Are we surprised? I don’t think so. The HSE is a faceless organisation wasting millions of taxpayer’s money every year to fund it’s quagmire of management levels and all at the expense of frontline healthcare. In a bid to address the budget deficit, the HSE is devising a major cost cutting plan to downsize our health service and you can be sure that it won’t be the HSE to suffer the consequences. While waiting to see a specialist yesterday in an over-crowded out-patient clinic at a large public hospital, I came up with some alternative ideas for the HSE to consider. Instead of solely concentrating on cost-cutting measures in our hospitals, I would suggest that the HSE would be well-advised to look at opportunities to complement our health service.
For starters, let’s look at the area of catering in our hospitals. The catering budget must be astronomical and yet the wastage of food is phenomenal. Over the years, I’ve had many stays in hospital and I’ve often joked that this provides a saving on the family budget as my board and lodgings when in hospital, are fully covered by my health insurance. I pay dearly for health insurance and am fully entitled to this return. All medical card holders when admitted to hospital, are entitled to free care in our public health service. Those patients who are not entitled to a medical card and who do not hold private health insurance, pay a small daily levy for in-patient care. The point I’m trying to make here is that everyone regardless of income, has to budget for their daily nutritional expenses so why should the State or an insurance company be expected to pick up the tab for our food requirements when we’re in hospital? I guarantee you that if patients were charged for their meals, the wastage of food in hospitals would be radically reduced. Granted a lot of hospital food is inedible but again if patients were subsidising the cost, the standards would automatically improve.
Another aspect of hospital care which should be addressed, is the way out-patient clinics are managed in our public hospitals. There is no charge for appointments or investigations once a patient is in the public system and like all free services, it is open to abuse. By comparison, those who hold health insurance, must pay-as-they-go to be investigated within the private system, the difference being of course that they enjoy the benefit of shorter waiting times. While private health insurance is fairly comprehensive for in-patient expenses, out-patient expenses are generally poorly reimbursed. I would like to propose that all patients should be expected to pay something towards the cost of their appointments. I believe that a small charge for an out-patient appointment in a public hospital, is not unreasonable. It would not only help to offset budget deficits but would also reduce the number of appointments as public patients would take ownership of their healthcare just like privately insured patients are forced to do. This in turn would free-up non-consultant hospital doctors (NCHD) and reduce overtime expenses for the HSE.
I know I’ll be unpopular for these suggestions but I don’t care as I see it as the right way forward. At a time when the government is asking everyone to shoulder the economic difficulties, we can start by taking responsibility for our own health service. Every single person in this country should have equal, speedy, and efficient access to safe healthcare. At the moment, we have a 2-tier, apartheid health system where those that can afford health insurance, have the fastest access to health care. Let’s use patient power to save our public health service and stop the degradation planned by the HSE.
And before anyone asks why as a privately insured patient, I was seen yesterday in a public out-patient clinic, let me explain. I had no choice in the matter as I required endoscopic investigation and this service is no longer available in private consulting rooms as a result of the boom in MRSA litigation. MRSA has little to recommend it but in this regard, it has worked in my favour. I got to enjoy an appointment with my own choice of consultant, in perfectly adequate facilities and at the expense of the State. Point taken?
10 Comments | 2-tier health system, health, Health Service, hospital, HSE, MRSA, private health insurance | Tagged: medical card, NCHD, out-patient clinic, private consulting rooms | Permalink
Posted by Steph