Was up in the North yesterday, talking about the elections. Not that the purpose of my visit was to talk about the elections or anything: it just came up in the conversation.
I mentioned one part of the debate between Bertie Ahern and Enda Kenny to a couple of people: the bit where Enda Kenny talked about how he was going to bring in free GP visits for every child under 5, and where Bertie Ahern sort of nailed him on this, insisting that ‘no child born today will receive that service’.
Naturally enough, the people I spoke with thought that the situation was absurd, since there is no charge for basic GP treatment for NHS patients who live in the UK.
They were unaware of how things work here in the republic, where you pay around €50 for a visit to a GP, and where, in my own experience, the level of service you receive is very inconsistent, staffed by many doctors who have no decent communication skills and a patronising attitude towards their patients.
To give an example: a few weeks back I had to write a letter of complaint on behalf of a non-Irish national who had taken her baby to the GP’s surgery about a skin ailment. The mother had brought along the different creams and soaps she had been using, and placed these on the table for the GP to see. The GP took a quick look at the child’s leg (the rash was all over the child’s body), then wrote out a prescription without checking the creams on the table. She lifted the mother’s handbag, and placed the creams and the soaps inside, then ushered her and the baby out the door, handing over the prescription but giving no indication of how often to use the prescribed medicine, how long the rash was likely to last and so on. The woman was made to feel pressured to leave.
It then turned out that the prescription the GP had given was for one of the creams that the mother had placed in front of her. The whole appointment lasted 4-5 minutes maximum, for which she received an invoice for €45.
I’ll have more to say on the subject in a few days, since I’ve had a bit of an eye-opener of late.