Dear Mary

July 9, 2009

To: Ms Mary Harney, Minister for Health & Children

I’m writing to let you know my views on the public health service. Having spent three days last week residing in the busy A&E department of a large teaching hospital, I feel qualified to comment. The experience has left me wanting answers to many questions. Please listen to what I have to say.

Last Friday my doctor sent me to A&E for emergency care as I’d developed a serious complication following surgery some weeks earlier. On arrival in A&E, I was rapidly processed by a triage nurse and seen by the registrar on-call. An immediate decision was taken to admit me to the hospital. I finally reached a ward on Monday afternoon! During the 3 days and nights spent in A&E, I was extremely well-cared for but the conditions were hell. The staff were so busy, patients had long waits for help. It was like being in a war zone, people lying on trolleys everywhere with further casualties arriving by the hour. It was also extremely noisy with little or no privacy. These conditions do not aid recovery.

My first question to you, Mary,  is this… why must sick and injured people be exposed to these awful conditions in order to be admitted to hospital? Where are the 1,000 extra beds you promised when you took over as Minister for Health 5 years ago? I sure could have done with one of those beds last Friday.

It was a great relief when I was finally transferred to a 4-bed semi-private ward where I remain. I’m receiving excellent medical and nursing care here. Thankfully, this hallmark of Irish healthcare remains intact despite the inadequate funding of our public health service. I’ve no doubt that this is due to the dedication of the staff who work in frontline services. The unit I’m in, has been recently refurbished and is beautifully fresh and clean. I’ve no complaints really except I’d obviously prefer to be in my own howm. The catering is good, plenty of good nutritional food and frequent offers of hot/cold drinks. I’m very aware that this aids a speedy recovery and subsequent discharge from hospital.  I’ve not always hit this lucky.

Over the years,  I’ve spent many weeks as a patient in this same hospital, on the public wards.  It has always been a grim experience in terms of patient comfort, lack of facilities etc. I don’t think much has changed although I have heard that hygeine levels have improved on the big wards. My medical history is extensive so I choose to hold private health insurance to ensure that I can get care when needed. My case is complex and so I cannot be admitted to one of the smaller private hospitals for treatment although I’m fully insured to do so. These smaller hospitals cannot provide the care I require.

I want you to know, Mary, that it’s distressing to observe your clear policy of starving the public hospitals of funding while you promote the development of co-located private hospitals. The staff who work at the frontline in our public hospitals, are fantastic but they are being stretched to the limit to provide the care needed in our under-resourced public hospital system.  I plead with you to stop bleeding our health service to death while you continue to promote an inequitable health service. Give us a break, Mary.

The semi-private unit I’m in, is excellent. I do not need for anything better as all my needs are being met here. I’ve hit lucky on this occasion as this is the most comfortable unit in the hospital. However, the WHOLE hospital should run like this unit. Instead, the majority of the rest of the hospital is no longer fit for purpose. It’s time to put our health resources to proper use. Surely everyone deserves fair and equitable healthcare?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Steph @ The Biopsy Report