‘You’ll be waiting one hour’ – cue 13 hours in hell

After one half of a human day staring at the words Accident and Emergency painted red on the wall, they appeared to my sleep-deprived mind to spell out ‘Abandon hope all ye who enter here’. . .

Friday evening last week I went to my GP (general practitioner) with mild but persistent pains in my chest – I’d been having them on and off all week long. It hurt to eat or even to breathe too deeply. The doctor couldn’t pinpoint the cause and so, wanting to rule out anything wrong with the heart or lungs, sent me to the A&E for more tests. To the hospital I went, girlfriend by my side and book in my hand, thinking I’d have a wait of five or six hours.

It ended up a 13 hour wait to see a doctor – from 6.30 pm Friday evening to 7.30 am Saturday morning – and ne’er a wink of sleep in between. Now I realise that in any A&E department there are going to be backlogs and waiting times of a few hours, but this situation dragged us firmly into the realm of absurdity.

These people do their best with limited resources; I admire their cool and ability to handle stress in the face of aggressive drunks and hypochondriac junkies. But the fact is that it was an extremely quiet night; my girlfriend and I had been expecting truckloads of Friday night drunks. There was talk of popcorn to accompany the entertainment.

No need: there were only two drunks and two junkies in the whole 13 hours we sat there.

The title of this post comes from a seminal moment in the night when I asked a nurse who was taking my blood sample how long more I’d be waiting to see a doctor. One hour, she said (it’ll be grand, she said). Two hours later I went to the desk to ask an administrator why I hadn’t been seen yet. When I said that a nurse had told me (two hours previously) I’d be waiting an hour, the administrator laughed in my face. The insolence of bureaucracy is astounding, sometimes; she was lucky there was a thick pane of glass between us.

Eventually I was seen, diagnosed with nothing more than bad chest muscle pains, given a prescription and sent on my way. We then slept away our Saturday, my girlfriend and I.

As fumingly pissed off as I was at the time (we were near tears more than once), I see, now that a few days have passed, that it was not the fault of the administrators, nurses and doctor who dealt with me. They are hamstringed by their circumstances; understaffed and overworked, dealing with too much bureaucracy, often working with outdated practices and technologies. Their entire IT system was apparently down the whole time we were there, in fact. This is simply unacceptable in a hospital that deals with a catchment area of about 400,000 people.

All of this is because the Irish government has no clue how to effectively manage its healthcare system. Why not take a lesson from the Netherlands, France or Canada, whose health systems are lauded the world over? I realise the same economies of scale may not apply given the population disparities, but only by investigating new methods and implementing changes, however small, will things improve.

The Irish government not too long ago was praising itself for exiting its bailout programme, oblivious to the fact that this means absolutely nothing to the average citizen who faces the same bleak economic outlook as ever.

Successive Irish governments have treated their people with utter disdain, preferring to salvage corrupt and bankrupt banks than to ensure decent healthcare and education systems. They facetiously claim that unemployment is falling, not mentioning that this is because people are emigrating at an alarming rate.

A friend argued, not long ago, that the communist system failed when the Berlin Wall fell, and the capitalist system failed when the banks fell – and were bailed out.

I do not think he was wrong.

Anyone reading this from a different country, please comment and let us know how long you can expect to be waiting for treatment in an emergency department there.


Ming the Vandal

The latest lie they are trying to tell us is this: Luke Flanagan committed an act of vandalism in the Dáil. Now, when you and I hear the word ‘vandalism’ we think of graffiti, broken windows and burnt-out cars; damaged property, in other words. What we do not think of are the ring stains caused by a solitary glass of water on the poor, sacred wood of the Irish Republic’s government chambers.

So what did Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan do? He marched across the chamber and presented a glass of contaminated drinking water from his own constituency to Minister of State for the Environment, Fergus O’Dowd. He challenged Mr. O’Dowd – charged with toeing the government line in a debate on the incoming water charges – to drink the ‘glorified piss’. He declined and Mr. Flanagan then walked out of the chamber, his point made. This short incident, in all its parliamentary splendour, can be seen here.

Judging by their reactions, Irish politicians are not fans of show and tell.

Seán Barrett, the Dáil Ceann Comhairle  (chairperson or speaker), called what Luke Flanagan did an ‘act of vandalism’. Mr. Barrett’s grasp of the English language is bewilderingly tenuous for the lofty position he holds. Ming Flanagan is not a vandal, despite the fact that he would not look out of place on a battlefield of the Early Middle Ages. His trademark beard is impressive and is the source of his tongue-in-cheek nickname – the liberal Mr. Flanagan is about as far from Flash Gordon’s nemesis as you could get.

In keeping with their astounding knack for insulting the Irish people on a weekly basis, the government, through Mr. Barrett, called an emergency meeting of the Dáil’s committee on Procedure and Privileges. It will not have escaped notice that they failed to call an emergency meeting to discuss and resolve the presence of cryptosporidium in drinking water in a certain part of the country. No, they are far more concerned with disciplining Mr. Flanagan for his ‘outrageous and unacceptable behaviour’.

They’re a sensitive lot, those TDs, to get so worked up over the word ‘piss’ and a possible water-stain.

I believe that this incident highlights (as if there were any doubt) where the priorities of the vast majority of Irish politicians lie. Rather than tackle the piss-poor drinking water with which some parts of the country are afflicted, they are far more concerned with making sure that their comfortable existence – their procedures and privileges – remain intact. The only thing they take seriously is an attempt to rattle their cage.

In my opinion, Ming Flanagan is something of a champion of the people. He is an independent TD, not beholden to any party. He is best known for campaigning to legalise marijuana. With his comfy jumper and pointy beard, he is more down to earth than just about every other politician Ireland has to offer (read: inflict upon) its people. He is the only one to fight tooth and nail for his constituency – the people who elected him to represent them – and not himself, his bank account or anything else.

He is rightfully challenging the government’s plans to introduce water charges the length and breadth of the country. That they have the audacity to do this when they can’t even guarantee uninterrupted water supply to Dublin, the nation’s capital and biggest city, shows the utter disdain with which they view their people. These shortages of course have had the added effect of hamstringing the economy with many business and restaurants unable to function properly. Ireland is indeed a third world country when it comes to water, and even more so when it comes to the calibre of its politicians.

Suffice it to say that Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan is the one flickering candle of hope in what is otherwise the dank and dreary cellar of Irish politics.


p.s. I must apologise for the overabundance of links in this post – they’re for the benefit of anyone unfamiliar with Irish politics and recent events.

‘Middle-class snobbishness’ curtails public transport use

This title I take from an article of the same name on the Irish Times website. I almost didn’t want to write this post, so obvious and telling is the lie with which it deals. But I’ve decided to give it a go anyway because silence (or a blank page, in this case) is precisely what politicians want.

And gods know they already get enough of that.

This is the most ridiculous and insulting article I’ve had the displeasure of reading in some time. Does this man think that all Irish people are idiots? Alan Kelly, Irish Minister of State for Public and Commuter Transport, is essentially trying to blame ‘the middle classes’ for the underuse of public transport. He says the vast majority of Irish people are too snobbish and proud to use public transport. I do not deny that this may be the case for some, but certainly not for all.

No, the main reason for which Irish people absolutely abhor using public transport is its blatant unreliability. In my experience, Bus Eireann buses are only on time very early in the mornings; as the day progresses all semblance of a timetable goes out the window. I am regularly waiting up to 45 minutes for a bus home from work in the evenings. There is meant to be one every 15 minutes.

When it finally does arrive and I hop on, the driver is by and large unbearably gruff, lacking the most basic interpersonal skills. And then there’s their actual driving, which more often than not is horrendous. I know a bus is much more difficult to drive than a car, but these people are meant to have professional training. They are forever scuffing curbs and mounting footpaths.

And their braking is just to die for, literally! Each one of the regular misanthropes I have the misfortune of driving with brakes too late, jolting their passengers forward – it’s only a matter of time until someone splits their head open on a grip bar. Or, for more hilarity, until an unintentional head-butt sends some false teeth flying.

And then of course there are the ever-increasing fares to contrast with the ever-dwindling services and quality thereof.

Alan Kelly would do well to climb down off his high horse – incidentally the only mode of transport known to Irish politicians – and get a clue. He and his ilk have no idea what it is to ‘rely on’ (read: be a time-hostage of) Bus Eireann every day, what with their chauffeurs and expense accounts and frequent Dáil bar sessions.

I despise the Irish state; I think it is a disgrace to the Irish people. The condition of our public transport system is but a symptom of an illness that runs much deeper. From politicians and senior civil servants to the Gardaí, Revenue and HSE (Health Service Executive), right down to Bus Eireann, the Irish state is a complete and utter farce.

I am certainly not alone in this opinion and it is little wonder, then, to find someone dancing on the grave of Charles Haughey, the undisputed godfather of Irish political cronyism. It is not from snobbishness that I write this post or that Haughey’s grave was danced on; it is rather from resentment, distrust and anger. It is from an average of 40,000 people leaving the country every year since 2008. It is from sheer indignation.

It is for shame and to shame that I write this post, and I hope you will share – or at least understand – my outrage. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael (read: Coke and Diet Coke) have let their tribal bullshit drag Ireland down the toilet for decades now. Our elected officials do not so much represent us as rule us.

I would sincerely love to have all Irish political parties abolished for the next fifty years, and be governed instead by the EU or – why fight it any longer? – directly by Germany.

They couldn’t do much worse a job than is already being done, and let’s not forget: you can actually set your watch to the buses in Germany!