Issue 2 - 2024 200dpi

20 December 2001 Edition

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Casualty around Christmas

It is an obscenity.

There were 31 people left queuing in James Hospital, casualty, at 2.30 am. Two old women in their seventies, one had come in by ambulance, still in a night-gown. She had been in casualty since just 1 pm that day. They were waiting to see a doctor. Others had been waiting even longer.

There were trolleys everywhere, supporting people, old people, very sick people, some gasping at oxygen masks, others their faces wracked in pain.

Some were sitting, pushed into corners in wheel chairs, waiting to move to a bed, maybe in a day or two, but too sick to walk. Others were on the floor on stretchers.

Right at the back of the waiting room, as people stared blankly at the electronic notices, "please be patient, and remember there are people who may be sicker than you", were people huddled in the corner. They were homeless people. Sometimes kindly, humane security guards turn a blind eye to them. They too are in need of a doctor. Their feet are sore and infected - from walking the streets all day.

For the rest, maybe they will get so annoyed, waiting, that they'll go home - if they have a home
A friend of a patient, who had endured the previous night of waiting as well, had brought in woolly socks to give him and his mate. And as they stood in the bitter cold, dragging at cigarettes, the craic was mighty. This is the history of a people beaten down over generations, always with the joke - the irreverence, the verbal revenge of irony, lost on the perpetrators of this outrage.

"Why did they close the Meath, the Adelaide?" "Tallaght they say is even worse". "What do you pay your taxes for?" "It's not the nurses' fault." Every little cubicle was a story of human crisis, of sickness and pain, worry, fear of death. Some were two-ed, up in the cubicles. The nurses and assistant carried quietly on. It was normal.

And, if you happened to have a cheque book, or a bankers card, you would sail right in, and onto a ward, if there was the slightest doubt that you needed care, or looking after.

For the rest, maybe they will get so annoyed, waiting, that they'll go home - if they have a home. And that proves, doesn't it, after all, that their pain was not too bad? They didn't really need casualty at all. Meanwhile there are beds lying empty in the private wards?

It's an outrage. It's indecent. It's a crime that the political establishment is guilty of, while the minister plays monopoly with his interminable 'new' plans for the health service, while opposition declaim their press statements of opposition, noisily protesting that their parties would do otherwise, if only they had power.

These are the old, the sick, the beaten down. Are you waiting for a revolution to put all this right?

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1