Sick Joke

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.

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6 Responses to “Sick Joke”


  1. 1 Iain May 21, 2007 at 1:25 pm

    its not that there is no charge, but that you are charged through general taxation (Doctors aren’t free in the UK either). It is wrong that as a paying ‘customer’ that you still receive a poor service, but then maybe you should go to a different GP if you’re not happy with the one you use presently.

  2. 2 hughgreen May 21, 2007 at 1:38 pm

    its not that there is no charge, but that you are charged through general taxation (Doctors aren’t free in the UK either).

    Yes. This means, among other things, that parents are not penalised for their child being sick.

    maybe you should go to a different GP if you’re not happy with the one you use presently.

    Maybe I already have. The problem is not that there are no good doctors, it is that the service is inconsistent.

  3. 3 Iain May 21, 2007 at 3:41 pm

    “Yes. This means, among other things, that parents are not penalised for their child being sick.”

    well, quite! They’re penalised regardless of whether or not their children are sick, but i guess we’re all penalised equally even if we don’t have (like myself) children at all.

    Incidentally, just because we benefit from the bureaucracy of the NHS deciding for us which Doctor we see doesn’t necessarily mean we receive a better service than you.

  4. 4 hughgreen May 22, 2007 at 11:13 am

    That wasn’t really what I meant by penalised. If your child is sick, it isn’t quite the same thing as if your car breaks down. Your child is not a personal possession, but a citizen.
    So whereas one might reasonably balk at the taxpayer covering the cost of car repairs, covering the cost of basic healthcare for all children seems (to me at least) an instrument of a decent society. Even those who don’t have children will still need to rely on other people’s children in future.
    What I meant by ‘penalised’ is that payment to GPs in these cases is tantamount to a regressive tax on child illness.

  5. 5 hughgreen May 22, 2007 at 11:17 am

    With regard to quality of service, yes, you’re probably right: neither my own experience nor the fact that you have to pay is evidence that the NHS-provided service is better. I just think that the principle of no charging for basic GP service is a good one.

  6. 6 Iain May 22, 2007 at 1:36 pm

    Fair enough. Certainly children from poor backgrounds should get free medical attention (though i wouldn’t restrict that to just children to be honest).


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