my hat with Blasket Island in background

Even though we are on holiday it would be remiss of me not to mention my health. I know it’s not very holiday-like but it’s an interesting point of comparison between the UK and Ireland and let me say, right up front, the UK does not come out of the comparison well. My GP surgery in Leeds has developed a ‘system’ that no doubt works well for the practice / business but not for the patient. They like you to come along to the surgery without an appointment and sit in a queue. The last time Mrs Summerhouse went to pick up my prescription she described the room as unbearably hot, full of people who had been waiting in some cases for three hours.  Perfect system to catch something additional to what you went in with.

Trying to avoid this system by making an appointment is an equal misery. First, they don’t answer the phone, when they do they tell you the next available appointment is a month away or even that the doctor’s diary isn’t available yet. This isn’t just me who perhaps they’ve got on a fictitious list of frequent visitors, I’ve probably been to the doctor’s surgery half a dozen times in the last 20 years, Mrs SH heard a patient in the surgery being offered an appointment sometime in June at the beginning of May. It’s poor and getting worse. Blame the National Health cuts the receptionist tells the woman. Hmm, I wonder.

The irony is that the diabetes system is overkill, I get reviewed by the practice’s diabetic nurse and a different community health system outside of this practice. The two just about manage to communicate. It’s a bit like you can have this one twice, this one, by way of balance, not at all. Hmm. Obviously greater minds that mine are at work here. It’s no time to be ill in the UK.

Contrast this with my treatment here in Dingle. The last time I was here, a year ago, I had these tremendous pains in my foot and went to see the doctor. At that time I walked in off the street with no NHS number and only my passport for identification and am seen straight away by a doctor, exams passed and everything. She could not have been more helpful, full blood tests and a plausible diagnosis. This time I went again, yes, I know I’m starting to resemble one of those health tourists that abuse our UK health system only I’m going to Ireland to get free treatment. Yes, it’s quicker to drive to Holyhead, take the ferry, drive to Kerry to see a doctor than try and get an appointment down the road.

Where was I in this little cup of poison? Right, I’m there again, back at the Dingle Medical Centre and I get the same prompt, efficient treatment even with Brexit looming. The doctor (different lady doctor) commiserates and says she hopes our system doesn’t come over here. I’ve got an infection that just isn’t going away. I know it’s an infection because the pharmacist back home said if it doesn’t go away in a week and your mucous (polite word) turns green, it’s an infection and will need treating with anti-biotics. It hasn’t and it has and it does. After a thorough examination she writes me out a prescription and I’m off out the door to the local chemist. I haven’t got any money and Mrs SH is off walking the dogs. I tell the pharmacist I haven’t got any money. He tells me there’s an ATM machine round the corner. I tell him I have my own ATM machine but she’s walking the dogs. He says, no problem, take the drugs and she can pay later. Trusting or what. A nice touch I thought. Just one thing, he says, these drugs make you susceptible to sun burn. You need to cover up. Try factor 20 sun block. Oh, and no alcohol.

This is a bit of a problem because, as always, the weather is, so far at least, fantastic and we spend a fair amount of time in the open-air on the beach walking the pups. The two don’t quite go together. Sun block or a hat? You can see from the photo above my choice (excuse the sand but the pups like to sit on it). Sun block would have probably been cheaper, this hat cost nearly 20 euros, quite expensive just to counteract the effects of my antibiotics while the drugs themselves were only 2.50 euros and the treatment free. Later I have one small glass of wine with my meal and a glass of milk with dessert.

Because I’m feeling pretty bad I take 2 of the tablets (double dose to begin with to really zap the infection), they really zap me and I feel 100% worse. This was in the car park, sorry about the chronology but I’m still feeling ill as I write this. We stagger home where I fall into one of those fitful, hot and sweaty (sounds good doesn’t it?) sleeps. All through my sleep a voice keeps telling me you need to get up and go to the Blasket Centre (my office of past visits) and sort out tomorrow’s blog. But I’m ill, I say to the voice. You need to wake up and go out, says the voice, think of your public, the show must go on. But I can’t, I’m ill, don’t you understand? After an hour the voice wins, I get up, feeling very sorry for myself, get into Land Rover and drive the short distance to the centre and find my, usually reliable, internet connection doesn’t work. It’s been a problem for a while apparently. It takes all my reserves of whatever it is you reserve for these occasions, not to lie down on the table and say f—k the blog.

Instead I get back into the vehicle and drive to the nearest pub in Ballyferriter which, I’m told, has Wifi. It does and a, more than helpful, barman says sure come in (even though I didn’t buy a drink, I would normally of course but hey, the antibiotics say no), no problem. I tell him what I’m doing and he says he will read it tonight, that’s last night, even though he’s nowhere near retiring age and have I thought about advertising on my site? Not sure why but he seems puzzled that I’m not interested in making any money. I tell him it’s a hobby and he seems content. This system works perfectly and I set the blog up to publish today* Happy days. OK, I still have the infection, having taken the third tablet this morning, but, in my retirement, I can say I would rather be here in Dunquin with my illness than back home with my deteriorating health care system. Retirement doesn’t get any more interesting.

*PS. this blog is posted not in chronological order, it was written at the beginning of our two weeks here and is only just getting published on the final Friday of our visit. So saying it was published today was not true – at that time. I had intended to write a different blog but I haven’t got round to it so I’m now belatedly posting this one. I hope you’re following this. The infection has gone by the way, as are the antibiotics but the cold or whatever persists.

4 Comments

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  1. Still the Lucky Few 6 months ago

    A brutal cold germ has circled the globe. I got it, and have been sick for a month. It keeps coming back. Our health system must be marginally better, since I can (and do) make appointments, and the wait time in the clinic is negligible. I hope this lasts! Also hope you get over your cold!

    • Author
      summerhouse 6 months ago

      thank you for your kind wishes

  2. rosni3 6 months ago

    It’s been a pleasure reading about the Dingle area which I used to know so well. Enjoyed the picture of the Great Blasket even though it’s a bit upstaged by your hat. But I’m so sorry you’ve been having pesky health problems. Foot infections not nice, nor colds either. How good to read about a humane primary healthcare system. Alas, the poor old NHS. Blooming politics which demand austerity of th poor but never of the rich.

    • Author
      summerhouse 6 months ago

      How true

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