Inequality

The Irish Cancer Society tells us that

“Every 3 minutes in Ireland someone gets a cancer diagnosis…Incidence of cancer is growing and by 2020, 1 in 2 of us will get a cancer diagnosis in our lifetime.”

Yesterday the Irish Times and the Sunday Business Post informed us that VHI is allowing access to cancer drugs to their policyholders which are not available to uninsured cancer patients.  RTE have followed up today expressing ‘concern as only insured patients may access new cancer drugs.’

Mr John Crown, the renowned Medical Oncologist was quoted as saying,  “For the first time since I can ever recall, we have a difference in access to cancer drugs between public and private patients. It’s completely unfair. It’s going to be extraordinarily difficult now.”  “I’ll be seeing public and private patients this week and I will quite possibly be giving both of them different news about what treatment is available for them and I’m not comfortable with that.”

I do not know why VHI have written to oncologists informing them that they have extended access to these new drugs for certain cancers.

I do not know why the HSE does not already give access to these new drugs for cancer patients.

There may be a reason behind it.  Is it due to a lack of efficiency in HSE?  Have the HSE failed to keep up with the available drugs on the market?  Is it a ploy by VHI to gain a larger market share?  I have no idea.  Perhaps someone with the required knowledge could throw some light on that.

All I do know is that the HSE, the Health Minister, the government, the patient groups, the Irish Cancer Society and every person living in this country need to speak out immediately and put a stop to this further inequality in our Health Service.   It is imperative that those who have the power within the HSE act immediately to grant access to these drugs to cancer patients today, not next week, not next month or next year.  They need to act now.

According to ‘USA today’, Ireland is the 10th richest country in the world.  That’s ahead of the USA at 11th, Germany at 17th, Sweden at 18th, France at 24th.  Google it!  type in worlds richest countries.  There we are at number 10.   Yet we don’t rate at all on healthcare, while France is generally acknowledged to have the best health service in the world.  But there again, France is a true republic, we only pay lip service to the ideals of a republic.  We do not cherish all our citizens equally, certainly not if you are ill and in need of help and support, or even a little payback for all those paye/prsi/usc contributions that you have made.

We, the people, need to think about the type of society we want to be a part of.  Is the Ireland of today, the country you want it to be?

523,000 of us are on a waiting list for an outpatient appointment in a public hospital.  208,757 of those have been waiting more than nine months.  Those figures include 46,300 children.

Remember, by next year, 1 in 2 of us will get a cancer diagnosis in our lifetime.

Only 46% can afford private health insurance.

 

Human or Machine?

Who decided that we the Irish public, didn’t want, need or merit a human point of contact?

Was it a civil servant?  Was it a consultant?  Did a think tank get together and decide that the way forward for we the public is to be served by machines?  I’m curious, are you?  Who made these decisions?  And why?

can i help you

Let’s take the banks.  They want us to use online banking.  Which is fine for most of us.  It is convenient and quick but sometimes you need to go into a branch.  That is if your bank has left your branch open, even then, they don’t make it easy.  Counter staff have been replaced with machines for lodgements and withdrawals, machines for online banking and teller stations reduced to the minimum.  Have you tried ringing your branch with a query?  Even if you ring your local branch you will get through to a call centre, could be in Naas, Swords or depending on your bank, as far away as Derry.  Why do they keep human contact to a minimum?  Who would you rather deal with?  A human being or a machine?

Have you been to Tallaght Hospital for an outpatient appointment lately?  You are met in the main foyer by machines which you must access to check in for your appointment.  Which is fine if you are computer literate and in the whole of your health, but when you are ill and anxious, possibly elderly or just not computer savvy, it adds another layer to your stress levels.  What bright spark thought up that one?   Should those who are ill and infirm be directed around a hospital by a human or a machine?

human or machine 1

Have you tried ringing your insurance company?  If you need to speak to them, set aside a good twenty minutes of your time at a minimum.  It’ll take nearly that length of time to get transferred to a human being by the time you press 1 for…press 3 for…press 6 for…then listen to their message about the regulator and other statutory information they feel it is essential to impart to you before every call.  Is the frustration that potential and existing customers suffer measured in any way against the perceived efficiencies?

Even McDonalds has jumped on the bandwagon.  I brought my nieces for a lunchtime treat to be greeted by an oversized touchscreen which took our order, gave us a number and we took our seats until our order number appeared on a screen.  Our only human contact, the thank you for the young person who handed over our food.  Is the business more efficient because of the new technology?  How do their customers feel about it?

And don’t even start me on ringing ANY government department.  They just don’t answer the phone.  They direct you towards their online services.  What about those who don’t or can’t do the whole online thing?  Can I ask again?  Who made that policy?  And why?

When was it decided that we the public, we the customer, the client, the service user should be served by machines and not a human being?

Ireland is a foreign country

Blue skies, bright sunshine and heat, glorious heat.  Ireland truly is a foreign country at the moment.  Close your eyes and smell the hard-baked earth and the scorched grass, feel the dust tickle the back of your throat.  It feels and smells like Spain or Portugal, but no, it’s Ireland in a glorious heatwave and we are just loving it.  We deserve it after the long, hard winter we have just been through.  The sun is out and the country is basking in its glory.

cartoon_kids_summer_02_vector_160815

Last Wednesday we drove to Seapoint beach after work.  It was packed with families and couples and individuals, all taking a dip to cool off after the heat of the day.  There was a mother with three children splashing about in the water with toy fins and lots of laughter.  A group of bikini-clad young women wearing designer shades and polished smiles were taking selfies as they posed thigh high in the water.  As I waded back through the shallow waves onto the beach I saw a toddler running into the sea laughing at the joy of the water on his sturdy little legs, as his mother ran after him, arms outstretched poised to grab him if he fell but ready to give him the freedom to enjoy this simple pleasure.  It was busy and joyous and certainly very different from our usual Wednesday nights.

sunshine

The last time we had temperatures like these was in 1976.  I remember it vividly.  I remember the smell of the heat and the picnics on the beach and the rounders on the Curragh.  Picnics with mushy banana sandwiches, jammy dodgers and red lemonade warmed by the sun.  On the way home we got ice lollies, an Orange Split or Loop the Loop.  Bliss!

 

So, enjoy the heatwave, despite the warnings on the radio and TV about water shortages and the dangers of dehydration.  We survived 1976 and back then we hadn’t heard of dehydration and we thought you only needed sunscreen if you were ‘going out foreign’.  We know better now.

Have fun in the sun!

Google it!

My youngest turns 20 in June.  I can’t remember life without him in it, but I feel like those twenty years have gone by in a flash.  They say as you get older the years go quicker.  Take my word for it, that is very true.  The Ireland of 20 years ago bears no reflection to the one we live in now.

mobile phone cartoon

In 1998 I didn’t have a mobile phone, neither did any of my friends or family.  For entertainment, we watched TV, usually the home stations RTE1, RTE2 and TG4.  In September 1998 they got a new rival.  TV3, an independent, commercial alternative.  For English channels, we were dependent on cable television provider Chorus, but in October digital satellite television came to Ireland, operated by Sky Digital and opened up a whole new world to us.

1998

We flocked to the cinemas, we still do, but in 1998 our cinemas were mainly single screens and locally owned.  We went there to watch Armageddon, Saving Private Ryan, Godzilla, There’s something about Mary, Deep Impact and Shakespeare in Love.  We brought the kids to see A Bug’s life and Mulan.

Mary McAleese was our president and Bertie Ahern was our Taoiseach with Mary Harney as Tánaiste.  The Celtic Tiger hadn’t yet been born but the twinkle was there in Bernie’s eye.  As a nation, we were sure about our future in Europe and our place in the world, due in no small measure to the Good Friday Agreement, the most significant event of 1998 for the people of Ireland, north and south.  It was the promise of peace, the building blocks for a new era.  The people of Ireland endorsed it by referendum a month later with the majority on both parts of this island voting in favour and Ireland looked forward instead of back with a new confidence in ourselves.

On Saturday 29th August that confidence was shaken by the dreadful news of a massive bomb in Omagh.  29 people died that morning and hundreds were injured.  It was a day which will scar our memories for years to come.  But perseverance and hard work on all sides kept the agreement on track.  Bill Clinton came to visit in September and we gave him a hero’s welcome, along with Tony Blair, when they spoke to the people of Omagh and to the whole island.  Then in October 1998, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded jointly to John Hume and David Trimble.  The Norwegian Nobel Committee expresses the hope that the foundations which have now been laid will not only lead to lasting peace in Northern Ireland, but also serve to inspire peaceful solutions to other religious, ethnic and national conflicts around the world.’ 

nobel peace prize

Yes, 1998 was a momentous year for the island of Ireland culminating with the demise of the punt on 31st December and the launch of the Euro on the first day of the new year.

But on the world stage, the most momentous event of 1998, was the formation in California of ‘Google Inc.’  It is hard to believe that 20 years ago we had never heard of Google.  It is now listed in the Oxford dictionary as a verb, i.e., ‘search for information about someone or something on the internet using the search engine Google.’ I googled that information!  How else would you access information on practically anything in this universe and beyond it?  It is an amazing resource, utilised by millions of people every day.  Google’s European headquarters is in Dublin, employing over 7,000 people.  Don’t know about you, but twenty years ago I wouldn’t have thought it possible that any internet company could employ that number of people, especially not in little old Dublin.

google-clip-art-2018-2

Immediate access to information has changed the world we live in.  If we want to know something, instead of weeks of research at the library or other research centres, we now ‘google’ our query and get immediate answers and thousands more questions.  The trick is to decipher which information is relevant and correct.

We have hundreds of television channels yet watch only a select few.  Currently one of the most popular programs is one which stars ordinary people watching television, (if you haven’t yet experienced the humanity of Gogglebox, indulge, it is unique).

We have the highest mobile phone ownership in Europe so we can keep in constant contact with each other, yet how often have you seen groups of teenagers starring into their phones and forgetting to communicate with each other.  In our hurry to explore new methods of communication, have we forgotten the joy of human interaction?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Google it!

My youngest turns 20 in June.  I can’t remember life without him in it, but I feel like those twenty years have gone by in a flash.  They say as you get older the years go quicker.  Take my word for it, that is very true.  The Ireland of 20 years ago bears no reflection to the one we live in now.

mobile phone cartoon

In 1998 I didn’t have a mobile phone, neither did any of my friends or family.  For entertainment, we watched TV, usually the home stations RTE1, RTE2 and TG4.  In September 1998 they got a new rival.  TV3, an independent, commercial alternative.  For English channels, we were dependent on cable television provider Chorus, but in October digital satellite television came to Ireland, operated by Sky Digital and opened up a whole new world to us.

1998

We flocked to the cinemas, we still do, but in 1998 our cinemas were mainly single screens and locally owned.  We went there to watch Armageddon, Saving Private Ryan, Godzilla, There’s something about Mary, Deep Impact and Shakespeare in Love.  We brought the kids to see A Bug’s life and Mulan.

Mary McAleese was our president and Bertie Ahern was our Taoiseach with Mary Harney as Tánaiste.  The Celtic Tiger hadn’t yet been born but the twinkle was there in Bernie’s eye.  As a nation, we were sure about our future in Europe and our place in the world, due in no small measure to the Good Friday Agreement, the most significant event of 1998 for the people of Ireland, north and south.  It was the promise of peace, the building blocks for a new era.  The people of Ireland endorsed it by referendum a month later with the majority on both parts of this island voting in favour and Ireland looked forward instead of back with a new confidence in ourselves.

On Saturday 29th August that confidence was shaken by the dreadful news of a massive bomb in Omagh.  29 people died that morning and hundreds were injured.  It was a day which will scar our memories for years to come.  But perseverance and hard work on all sides kept the agreement on track.  Bill Clinton came to visit in September and we gave him a hero’s welcome, along with Tony Blair, when they spoke to the people of Omagh and to the whole island.  Then in October 1998, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded jointly to John Hume and David Trimble.  The Norwegian Nobel Committee expresses the hope that the foundations which have now been laid will not only lead to lasting peace in Northern Ireland, but also serve to inspire peaceful solutions to other religious, ethnic and national conflicts around the world.’ 

nobel peace prize

Yes, 1998 was a momentous year for the island of Ireland culminating with the demise of the punt on 31st December and the launch of the Euro on the first day of the new year.

But on the world stage, the most momentous event of 1998, was the formation in California of ‘Google Inc.’  It is hard to believe that 20 years ago we had never heard of Google.  It is now listed in the Oxford dictionary as a verb, i.e., ‘search for information about someone or something on the internet using the search engine Google.’ I googled that information!  How else would you access information on practically anything in this universe and beyond it?  It is an amazing resource, utilised by millions of people every day.  Google’s European headquarters is in Dublin, employing over 7,000 people.  Don’t know about you, but twenty years ago I wouldn’t have thought it possible that any internet company could employ that number of people, especially not in little old Dublin.

google-clip-art-2018-2

Immediate access to information has changed the world we live in.  If we want to know something, instead of weeks of research at the library or other research centres, we now ‘google’ our query and get immediate answers and thousands more questions.  The trick is to decipher which information is relevant and correct.

We have hundreds of television channels yet watch only a select few.  Currently one of the most popular programs is one which stars ordinary people watching television, (if you haven’t yet experienced the humanity of Gogglebox, indulge, it is unique).

We have the highest mobile phone ownership in Europe so we can keep in constant contact with each other, yet how often have you seen groups of teenagers starring into their phones and forgetting to communicate with each other.  In our hurry to explore new methods of communication, have we forgotten the joy of human interaction?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The month of May

When I was a child, the month of May was devoted to Our Lady.  My younger siblings probably won’t remember this, but for the whole month of May, the table in our hall was transformed into a little altar.  It held a statue of Mary, a candle, rosary beads, the family bible and Mum’s prayer book.  Every evening we knelt in the hall and said a decade of the Rosary.  I can’t remember when the tradition stopped, but it was a very long time ago.

The month of May was named after ‘Maia’ the Greek goddess of fertility.  New life, new hope.   But bad news for those who plan to marry in May, ‘Marry in May and rue the day’ is the old saying, supposedly because the Gods married in May.

And May is such a busy month.

On 1st May International Labour Day is celebrated in over 80 countries around the world.  It is known as Labour Day, Worker’s Day or simply May Day.

In Japan ‘Golden Week’ is celebrated from 29th April to 5th May.  It is a series of public holidays held together starting with the ‘Emperor’s birthday’ and finishing with ‘Children’s Day.’  Many companies close for the week and workers receive paid leave.  It is the most popular time for the Japanese to go on holidays.

While we celebrated Mother’s Day back in March, in a lot of other European countries, and in the United States, Canada, South America, Australia, China and most of Africa, Mother’s Day is celebrated in the month of May.

Other holidays celebrated in May include, ‘World Naked Gardening Day.’  I kid you not!  Celebrated on the first Saturday of May and organised by the ‘Body Freedom Collaborative’ enthusiast have been gardening naked since 2005.  I can’t see it taking off in Ireland, for obvious reasons!  The following day, the first Sunday of May is ‘World Laughter Day.’  The timing seems oddly appropriate.

On the second Sunday of May, Spain celebrates Children’s Day.  What a lovely idea.  Every country should have a day to celebrate our future.

On the third Saturday of May, the United States celebrate their Armed Forces, while various other countries including Spain host their Armed Forces Day on the last Saturday.  In Argentina ‘Navy Day’ is celebrated on May 17th.  An Irishman, William Brown, was the creator and admiral of Argentina’s navy and is still respected as a national hero in Argentina.

There is an ‘International No-diet Day’ to encourage healthy body attitude and a ‘World No Tobacco Day’ to discourage smoking.  May is also Coeliac Awareness Month, Cystic Fibrosis Awareness Month and National Smile Month, to name but a few.

And remember, April showers bring May flowers.  I hope May brings you sunny days, warm evenings and hope for the months ahead.  Have a magnificent May.

Easter 2018

IMG_2947 (1)As you scurry around buying your spring lamb and new potatoes for Easter Sunday dinner and your chocolate Easter eggs for dessert, spare a thought for those less fortunate.  The current homeless figures were released yesterday.  Nearly 10,000 people in this little republic are homeless and that’s just the ones we know about.   That figure includes 3,755 children.   Our Taoiseach @campaignforleo has finally realised that it is indeed a national emergency.  About time!

What is he going to do about it?

How will our government solve this ongoing emergency to prevent it becoming a catastrophe?

Are they going to take the advice of those who specialise in this area, such as Fr. Peter McVerry?

Are they going to build social and affordable housing?

Or are they going to continue to throw money into the black hole that has become the ‘homeless sector’?

An entire industry has sprung up providing accommodation to the homeless, an extremely profitable industry.  On 25th January my blog ‘Clueless about profiteering from the homeless’ asked when and why our government had abdicated their responsibility to the citizens of this state.  I emailed numerous TD’s and DCC/DRHE with four straightforward questions.  No replies.  No reply from our Housing Minister, no reply from our Taoiseach, no reply from Dublin City Council.   Nearly 10,000 homeless and our government are facilitating the use of private companies to cater for them.  To make profits out of the misery of others.

3,755 children without a home, in a country that is ranked the 14th richest country in the world.  It is disgraceful and immoral.

Easter_Proclamation_of_1916

On Easter Monday we commemorate 102 years since the proclamation was read out on the steps of the GPO.  The proclamation promised ‘religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens’ and promised ‘cherishing all the children of the nation equally’.

Nearly 10,000 homeless people in Ireland including 3,755 children.

Is this the Ireland they envisaged when they wrote the proclamation?

Happy Easter everyone.

Spring Clean

St. Patrick’s Day was extra special this year.  It was a bitterly cold day, but it was bright and dry for the thousands who marched in parades in towns and cities in every county in Ireland.  In over 48 countries around the world, nearly 300 landmarks turned green for St. Patricks Day.  The London Eye, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, The Great Wall of China, Sydney Opera House, Niagara Falls, the Chicago River, to name but a few, all celebrating Ireland and its people.

st patricks day It was also bright and dry in the UK, in Twickenham Stadium, the home of English Rugby, where in front of 82,000 rugby fans, the Irish national rugby team gave us extra reason to celebrate our national day, when they beat the England rugby team to bring home to Ireland both the Triple Crown and the Grand Slam.  What a day to be Irish!

rugby

But St. Patrick’s Day is over and Easter Sunday beckons.  The clocks have sprung forward and we have an extra hour of light in the evenings.  Unfortunately, it is still unseasonably cold, but we live in hope.

When I was a child this week traditionally was the time for the big spring clean.

Skirting boards were scrubbed, all surfaces washed down with bleach and hot water.  Cupboards were cleaned out, all the cobwebs banished from the corners of the sitting room and the top of the landing.  Windows were cleaned and opened to allow the fresh air to circulate throughout the rooms.  The whole house purged waiting on the rebirth of Easter.

You would think reading that last sentence that I was religious.  I am not.  But Easter goes back further than Christianity.  Easter heralds spring.  When our world springs back to life and hope gives us all a spring in our step, pardon the pun.

IMG_2947 (1)

I love this time of year.  It is a time of hope, of new life, of great expectations for the future.  The daffodils dance in the breeze, waving at us.  This year they may have been beaten back by snow for a little while but they are up again, their smiling yellow faces urging us to be cheerful, to look forward.

In spring we plan for the year ahead, we still have hope for a decent summer, still have time to lose those extra pounds piled on during the dark winter months, time to plan holidays and day trips, BBQ’s and quality time with family and friends.

This week I plan to rejig my New Year Resolutions, ditch what isn’t working and forge ahead with new resolutions, new hopes and dreams for the future.  You are never too old for hopes and dreams.

So Happy Easter everyone.  May you find hope and joy and follow your dreams.

A Simple Act of Kindness

Acts of kindness towards ourselves, or those we care for, stick with us in our memories forever.

I was at a function last weekend, a surprise birthday party for a friend, and I saw a woman there who had no idea who I was.  But I remembered her.  I remembered how her simple act of kindness towards someone I cared for, made a huge difference to me, and the memory of her kindness so many years ago stayed with me to this day.

Many years ago, my uncle ended up in hospital, in a coma from which he would never recover.  The medical experts advised that we should talk to him, that he could hear what was going on around him.  It was difficult, extremely difficult for his family and friends, but everyone did their best.

He had been there, in that comatose state, for a few weeks, when I had to make a trip to the Hospital Emergency Dept to collect my other half.  Nothing major, a cut that needed stitching and a tetanus shot but he wasn’t ready when I arrived, so I decided to visit my uncle.  It was around 11pm at night and I slipped into the main hospital and upstairs to the side room off the main ward.   From the ward corridor, I could see through the glass door directly into where he lay.  I could see the nurse’s aid preparing him for the night.  She had finished washing him and was tucking the blankets in around him.  She brushed his hair, all the time talking to him with a tenderness that stopped me in my tracks.  She was gentle and kind and most of all respectful.  Her name was Bernie, (is Bernie and she still works there) and she treated him with such respect even though she didn’t know him, didn’t know anything about him and I was touched by her kindness.  That simple act of kindness turned what was, for me, a very sad time, into a memory which triggers a smile.  It is a memory that will live with me forever.

Maybe we should all try to perform just one little act of kindness every day towards our fellow human beings.  Imagine the difference it would make in all our lives.  Being on the receiving end of that little act of kindness is tremendous, imagine what it must be like to be on the giving side.  To have that kind nature, to give of yourself with no thought of reward.  Today and every day, let’s try and perform just one little act of kindness and leave someone with a lovely memory.

Smile and the world smiles with you

This is week eight of my Year of Possibilities and things are looking up.  The days are starting to get longer although it remains very cold.  I think we can all cope with the cold winter days, provided it’s bright and frosty like this week.  My problem is when it’s wet and cold and miserable.  You know those grey days when the rain never clears, and the sky remains grey from morning to night.  In Ireland, the first two months of the year tend to be over populated by those grey days.  Our homes feel dark and grey after the twinkling lights of Christmas have been taken down and put away for another year.  The limited daylight and the wet cold weather prohibits outdoor activity and we miss the fresh air.  It can be hard to find any joy in these dark days.  Which is why it’s so important to look for any reason to smile, to laugh, to find joy in the everyday.

person-3160685_1920

A simple trick is to smile.  When you smile, that smile is invariably returned and lifts the heart.  I don’t mean grinning like an idiot at every passer-by in the supermarket.  You could get locked up for that.  But if you greet each person you interact with, with your friendliest smile, be it your butcher, your co-worker or your nearest and dearest, your smile will be appreciated and returned.  That interaction will make you feel better and will lighten the hearts of those around you.  The simple act of smiling is proven to raise your endorphins, making you feel better, lowering your blood pressure, relieving stress and boosting your immune system.  Simple isn’t it?  And smiles are catching.  You smile, your smile is returned to you and that person smiles at the next person they interact with and so the ripples extend outward touching more lives than you could ever imagine.  I think I might make it my mission in life to smile more, to spread joy, even if only in my limited circle, for who knows how far that circle could possibly extend to.

‘Smile and the world smiles with you, cry and you cry alone.’Vector illustration of cool glossy Single Emoticon