Frozen Peas vs Healthcare Meltdown

Warning: Irish Healthcare System in Meltdown

Here is a comparative example of how breast cancer assessment, diagnosis and treatment is supposed to work in a first world country, and yet utterly fails in Ireland:

On Wednesday, December 5th, American Susan Reynolds found a mass in her breast. In her own words,

When I discovered a very thick area in my breast I called the doctor. The next day I was in her office. A half hour after that I was in the diagnostic radiologist’s. A full afternoon and multiple stab wounds later we had a variety of samples of malignant tentacles of tissue that were on their way to the lab.

Yesterday, the 21st of December, 16 days later, Susan Reynolds was in surgery. Yesterday, SIXTY FOUR DAYS after first calling her GP about a lump in her breast, Al finally had access to the first step in assessment, a diagnostic ultrasound. And that was after an Irish blogstorm, radio talkshow coverage, local political intervention and a question to Mary Harney, the Minister for Health, in the Dail.

Susan Reynold’s internet support comes from friends and friends of friends, all Twitter users, who have started The Frozen Pea Fund to raise money for breast cancer research in Susan’s name. She didn’t need bloggers to get an appointment; she didn’t need a radio show to get testing; she didn’t need a congressional inquiry to get treatment. Her friends are free to show their support through fund raising for a charity that isn’t Susan Reynolds because Susan simply had access to the care and treatment she needed when she needed it.

At the rate we’re going here in Ireland, we won’t ever be raising goodwill funds as an act of support for someone’s cancer diagnosis. We’ll be raising lifesaving funds to send them abroad so they can get prompt and appropriate treatment.

I wish the best to both of these women. But the fact I am more confident about the long term prospects for the woman having a mastectomy in America than the woman having an ultrasound in Ireland speaks volumes – volumes – about the state of the HSE. This simply has to change. We can do better than this. We have to.

2007: The Year in Review

2007: A Year in Review

Knowing I can’t do better than Twenty Major’s list of AsshatPalooza 2007, or Bock The Robber’s, is something of a bummer. So, I’ve decided to construct the only 2007 recap that will put John Gormley and Britney Spears on the same list. These are the 10 bodies I’d like to thank for making my year worth while, for better or for worse.

10. Senator David Norris

The man is a legend. A hero of long standing, lobbying for human rights and gay marriage, and a quick wit not afraid to call a dog license a dog license. How can anyone not utterly adore him? I swear, I want a David Norris teddy bear for Christmas. (Naturally, I will name it Muhammad.) He is also permanently dignified despite all the ridiculous crap he has to put up with. God love him.

09. Katie French

If for nothing else, for finally alerting those of us who are slightly slower than the other children in the class to what a pack of rat bastards the Indo are. Actually, there is nothing else, but that’s beside the point.

08. Galway City Council

I applaud them for their exemplary environmental activism and resource conservation by ceasing delivery of clean drinking water to the citizens of their city for 157 straight days. And counting. I also commend them for their unique cultural exchange initiative to introduce Galway’s residents to the delicate bouquet of imported bottled water. Tip: Pellegrino with lemon, Perrier with lime.

07. Every Corrupt Broker and Every Rent Boy in the USA

The Republican party purge this year has been extraordinary. Extraordinary in its breadth and extraordinary in the depth of my unmitigated glee. So on behalf of disgruntled Americans everywhere, I would personally like to thank every corrupt corporation in the US that ever gave a bribe to or did a shady land deal with a Republican politician, and especially each and every rent boy these Republicans promptly turned around and gave the cash to.

I love you, each and every one of you. Call me, we’ll do Prada.

06. Justine Delaney Wilson

I’m sure her book High Society and the RTE segment of the same monniker were named with a simple pun in mind. But rather than conjouring images of middle class managers and local TDs doing blow off their Blackberrys, I thought the thing was named after the prominent porn magazine and was looking forward to CEOs and a cabinet minister or two doing eight balls off the sturdy breasts of and pert buttocks of prostitutes and rent boys (respectively). I was terribly disappointed, and urge Ms Delaney Wilson to make up much more prurient real life stories next time. Please.

05. John Gormley and Dan Boyle

For the negotiations that brought the Green Party into coalition with Fianna Fáil, and the Green Party into Irish government for the first time in the party’s 25 year history. And for actually doing something with their new posts, which is really enough of a revolution for the moment. Plus I can flog all my old lightbulbs to the UK on Ebay now. Result!

04. Britney Spears

For the sheer entertainment value. Way, way better than Paris Hilton for jaw-dropping, inadvertent hilarity, from her shaved head to her shaved hoohoo. We desperately need a home grown version to liven up the evening news.

I can’t imagine how you missed it, but this year’s album reads like a confessional transcript. Named Blackout (no, seriously, it is), the CD contains tracks titled Gimme More (This Rehab Stint Is Like, So Not For Me), Freakshow (My Tabloid Life in 2007) and Why I Should Be Sad (That I Cannot Find My Own Knickers). Given recent reports, I think there’s room on the album for a remix of Oops, I Did It Again (And Got Knocked Up Straight Away).

03. Wolff Olins

Wolff Olins, “the world’s most influential brand business” accomplished the year’s most brilliant hoax by unveiling an exec’s doodle of Lisa Simpson giving a blow job as the 2012 Olympics logo. For their efforts, they won accolades for being “edgy” “dynamic” “innovative” and “young.” They also won £400,000, proving definitively that for a desperate ad executive, “impossible is nothing” – especially when you have crayons and a sense of humour in your arsenal.

02. John Smeaton and His Internet Friends

Obvious hurrah and well done to the have a go Glasgow airport hero who had his go during the airport un-bombing. His reward: a bunch of medals and honours… and 1,400 pints bought for him online at the Glasgow Airport Holiday Inn. You can buy him one, too.

01. Miss D

More than 100,000 women have traveled to Britain for abortions in the past 25 years. No woman makes this trip easily. And for women living in poverty, women who must care for small children, women with unsupportive partners, the journey is incredibly difficult. For Miss D, living in care and pregnant with a fetus that could not survive after birth, the journey was almost made impossible by opposition from the HSE, who sought an injunction to bar her from travel to Britain. She won her case when Mr Justice Liam McKechnie told the HSE where to shove it, and further noted that

Miss D had showed courage, integrity and maturity and had also displayed sound moral judgment by refusing to say she was suicidal when she was not.

Courage and integrity being words rarely applied to opposing council’s client. You go, girl. And a happy, healthy, peaceful New Year to you, too.

Dan Wishes Me a Happy Kwanza

Not an actual card from Dan Boyle

OK no not really. But we did get a card from Dan Boyle through the door this morning, one that wishes us a happy holiday season.

I cannot even begin to tell you how much I appreciate this, especially in a country that is 95% Christian. (The 88.4% Roman Catholic bit isn’t really relevant to my joy.) Getting “Merry Christmas” cards irritates me because they make annoying assumptions about the recipients and reinforce a mistaken notion of what’s normal (and normative) in this day and age.

Also not a card sent by Dan Boyle

Oh, and drive carefully on that suburban estate of yours this Christmas, okay?

As my mother says, language counts.

Spend Money to Save Money

So I was thinking more about the new light bulb legislation today, because while I’m very excited about this, I’m also becoming a little concerned about the costs. John Gormley noted the issue in a blog entry, saying:

The replacement bulbs such as CFLs and LEDs, may be more expensive, but even in the short term the measure will result in people actually saving money through lower electricity bills and the longer life of new technology bulbs.

And this is completely true. CFL bulbs use 20% of the energy, and last 15 times as long, which is quite frankly amazing. They also cost 10 times as much, which is problematic.

As bulbs in our rental house have burned out, we’ve been replacing them on a one for one basis with CFLs – because they are better for the environment and are cheaper over the long term. They also cost €6.50 each. One at a time this is manageable, but when we moved in here, we bought packs and packs of lighbulbs – for the overhead pendant lamps, for recessed lights, for bathroom fixtures, for spot lighting and free-standing reading lamps.

We probably bought a dozen or so light bulbs all at once. They were around 76 cents each, so that trip to Tesco cost less than a tenner. To make the same trip next year and buy CFLs will cost SEVENTY EIGHT EUROS.

Let me tell you how often I have €78 going spare: never. That’s more than we spend on groceries in a week – hell, if we’re at the end of our budget, that’s groceries for two weeks.

I was poking around the Power of One at Work website today, and found a case study on Tesco Ireland, which instituted “energy efficient design” in new stores last year. And energy efficiency measures certainly do pay for themselves; as Tesco themselves say,

For an investment of €1 million, energy savings of €1.7 million were achieved in 2006.

Which is marvellous. Except the point is that Tesco had the million euros to spend on measures that would save them money in the long run. I don’t have the €78 (or the million.)

Like I said, one at a time, it’s manageable and does make a nice dent in the electric bill. The having to do it all at once is a bitch when it happens. I guess that for most people, especially home owners, moving house is a rare thing. For us, especially as renters, it’s a regular occurrence. We’ve moved three times in five years.

I’m still really glad to have this legislation in place. I’m just hopeful that there might be some kind of grant or rebate or something by the time it comes into play, so we can afford to screw in a lightbulb without tightening our belts, too.

Forced Activism

So apparently Ireland is to be the first country in the world to ban standard incandescent light bulbs; we’ll be CFL-only next year.

I am in love with this idea. In fact, I am increasingly enamoured with all kinds of forced activism, or perhaps more accurately, forced environmentalism. I love the plastic bag charge. I love the WEEE charge, too, especially the part where the retailer has to take your old electrical appliance back for recycling.

I wonder, though, how many people really take advantage of that. Many people, I suspect, just dump their old toaster into the bin to clutter up a landfill instead of dragging it off to Argos to be recycled. That’s why I like the lightblub scheme; it removes the can’t be arsed option.

This is the kind of Stalinist regime I can really get behind.

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