Life Health & Wellbeing

Thursday 21 November 2019

Attacking GPs - 'Not so smart, Leo' says our GP


Messrs Fannin at 41 Grafton Street
Messrs Fannin at 41 Grafton Street

Maurice Gueret

Attacking GPs for referring their patients to hospital marks a new low for Varadkar, writes Maurice Gueret, who is on the scent of some Swedish Medical Gymnastics


I was pleased when Leo dug his heels into the Taoiseach's stirrups. He looks smart up there. He thinks smart, too. And he acts smart, most of the time. But the problem in Leo's schoolyard is that our head boy can be a bit of a smart-arse, too. It's a common character flaw in politics, but a potentially lethal one. Like many before him, Leo failed to leave much of an impression on Health. We remember now that he couldn't wait to get out of it. As our trolley crisis hits new record levels, all the sweet-nothings that Enda, James, Leo and Simon have been whispering into our ears ring a bit hollow. So Leo is pinning the blame on new fall guys, the GPs. He is going to look and see if family doctors are referring too many patients to hospital. It's a smart-arse response. It's like saying you are going to examine the behaviour of undertakers when the number of funerals is on the rise. Or putting Met Eireann forecasters in the dock after a spell of bad weather. I have been watching family doctors for 30 years. I have never seen them so livid. They won't take Leo down. But if he doesn't rein in smart-arsedness and learn that apologising can also be smart, his schoolyard time as head boy may be short.

Tallaght stroke

An invitation has arrived in the post. Somebody wants to assess my risk of having a stroke, in a hotel room in Tallaght. It's great value, they say, because they don't have the overheads of hospitals. The word 'free' appears many times on the leaflet. But it's only the follow-up advice that's free. Not the tests. The examination by 'your team' and 'your health professional' will cost €149. They will look for risks of blood clots in my heart that could travel to my brain and cause a blockage. Their words, not mine. They'll also check for gout, liver and kidney disease, blood pressure and a few other bits and bobs. I am put off by fact that their tests involve keeping all your clothes on, except your shoes and socks. I won't be going. It was drummed into us at medical school that a fully clothed examination is, by definition, an incomplete examination. I won't be going for stroke testing in a Tallaght hotel. Or any hotel, for that matter.

Eyeballs for sale

A bit of family research has taken me to an old edition of a Thom's Directory from the Dublin of 1937. Quite a different beast of a city 80 years ago. Nowadays, our nursing homes are all named like popular varieties of eating apples or leafy suburbs of Oxford. Back in those days, these establishments were always named after the formidable ladies who ran them. Nurse Cutler had hers on Leeson Street. Miss Wisdom knew what to do on the Harold's Cross Road, and the famous Fanny Overend had her caring establishment named after her on Upper Mount Street. These days, our directors of nursing last so short a time in office that naming care centres after them probably wouldn't make good business sense. Other medical establishments from 1937 included Pollock's of 25 Wicklow Street. Pollock's is where the Eye and Ear would send you if you had an enucleation operation and were in need of an expertly fitted glass eye. Messrs Fannin at 41 Grafton Street (pictured above) and McKay on Molesworth Street would fit all your artificial limbs. If you were less fortunate in 1937, the Dublin Shroud company on Coppinger's Row would have just the wrapping for you. But the clinic that fascinated me most was the Swedish Medical Gymnastics company that ran operations from 25 Mespil Road. The masseur was a gentleman named Knut Lindeberg. I'm all ears if anyone knows exactly what Dr Knut did for his patients on the leafy banks of Patrick Kavanagh's canal.

Dairy cough

Farmer's lung is a well-recognised medical condition where the human bellows of tillage men become inflamed by mouldy spores. Now a new paper in the Irish Medical Journal suggests our dairy farmers may have their own breathing troubles. Some 126 dairy farmers were checked out, mainly men. More than one-third of them suffered from a persistent cough. For many, the cough was independent of having previously smoked or the size of their dairy herd. NUI Galway doctors who did the study suggest that dust on dairy farms may be the culprit. Some French doctors believe dust on farms can be just as bad as fags at causing wheezy lungs. Time for the IFA to get down and dirty with a bit of agricultural hoovering.

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