Saturday 17 March 2018

Hospital presents - put an end to scam of urging presents after ward stays


Illustration: Eorna Walton
Illustration: Eorna Walton

Maurice Gueret

Our newlywed health minister is running a hospital service, not a deserving charity, writes our GP, who wants the begging for gifts to end.

Charitable Infirmary

Imagine on your next GP visit that there was a big sign in the doctor's garden, asking for donations towards a new stethoscope or vaccine fridge. You'd be quite entitled to question the cheek of such a request. Which is precisely the way I feel when I see a HSE hospital fundraising for new radiology equipment like CT or MRI scanners.

Irish patients and their visitors already pay taxes, hospital charges, insurance premiums and a €4 charge for 20 minutes in the car park. I don't believe visitors to Mountjoy prison are asked to contribute towards porridge oats or barbed wire. Nor are guests at Aras an Uachtarain invited to pay for beefy chunks fed to the presidential dog. In Ireland's past, when we had many true voluntary hospitals that relied on public subscription, there was very good reason for 'friends of hospitals' and charitable infirmary fundraising. Nowadays, all major public hospitals are each in receipt of tens or hundreds of millions of agreed State funding each year. They use it to pay handsome salaries and to fund necessary services. There is more money for wages when the public are conned into buying extra equipment. Our newlywed minister needs to put an end to this scam of urging financial presents after ward stays. Hospitals should be free to mend hearts without tugging on heartstrings.

Cloudy Lens

Three cheers this week for contact lenses. These medical devices rarely get the accolades they deserve. It's two decades or so since the acclaimed Donal McNally Junior popped a pair of super-thin contacts into my eyes and sent me up and down Grafton Street to see the world anew. It was one of those 'Eureka' moments, when I appreciated for the first time the wonder of having decent eyesight without goggles. I was hooked. Nowadays, I tend only to wear glasses for long drives, sports and gardening. Popping lenses in can be a pleasure. Remembering to take them out at night can be a chore. An English lady was admitted for a cataract operation recently in the West Midlands. While the anaesthetist was doing a local nerve block, a blue blob popped out from the corner of her eye. It contained 17 contact lenses wrapped in mucous. A further 10 old lenses were found under her eyelids using a microscope. She had been using monthly disposable lenses for 35 years. Alas, the meaning of the word disposable had not been fully appreciated.

Morning After Bill

There is a fascinating public health campaign under way to lower the cost of the so-called morning-after pill. It was often argued that the cost and inconvenience of a doctor's visit was putting a lot of women off using this important contraceptive measure. So, it came off prescription. Now the problem is that the pill has become unaffordable for some in pharmacy.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service has been campaigning to halve the cost of the pill, which had been priced at about €35 in some UK pharmacies, compared with a price of about €7 in France. They have succeeded in getting some pharmacy chains to reduce the price of one commonly used pill to about €15. There are three emergency contraceptive pills on the market here - ellaOne, NorLevo and Prevenelle. Pharmacies pay about €16, €12 and €6 for these respectively, which is the published trade price per dose. I'd be interested to hear how much patients are paying over Irish counters - email

Rising Centenarian

Japan has a chequered history when it comes to the treatment of older citizens. It is the nation, after all, that has its own word (ubasute) for the abandonment of senior citizens up far and distant mountains to fend for themselves. To be fair, this legend only had a grain of truth during times of great famine and drought. Things have improved in the Land of the Rising Sun of late.

 I read that older people who can prove they voluntarily gave up their driving licences are offered reduced-price noodles in many restaurants. Ireland has just 400 or so centenarians. In Japan, the total is now 65,000 and growing fast. Ageing is getting so popular that over-worked geriatricians want the government to redefine old age as 75 rather than 65. Those of 74 and under will be known as pre-old age. No bus pass or fuel allowance for them. If the logic follows through, by my reckoning I'm still a post-modern teenager with time on my side.

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