The health service isn’t helped by people who routinely abuse it.

We have lots of problem in our health service and hear about them often enough.

Still, there are many people alive today – me being one – because of the excellence of the staff employed by the HSE.

We don’t hear enough about them/us!

Nor do we hear enough about some other problems in the service.

Like the almost 500,000 people a year who miss appointments.

I don’t mean they cancel appointments, they just don’t show up. And they’re part of the reason so many others are waiting to be seen.

You see, while it is right that our health service is free, in as far as that’s possible, that means that it is abused.

And it means too, that the people who abuse it, go unpunished.

So we have people who drop in to A&E with a sore finger, with a slightly sore ankle, with a heavy cold, with insomnia. I have seen people in A&E with those “problems” apparently unmoved by the sound of sirens outside or the people beside them clearly in need of medical attention.

Those with the most minor complaints tend to be the ones who complain loudest about delays.

Then there are those who – I mentioned them the other day – stay an hour and then get impatient (if you’ll excuse the pun) and leave. 

They all clog up the system – if there really is a system.

Worse again are the “Frequent Fliers,” – that’s what one paramedic said they’re called.

These are the people who call 999 regularly. 

You might say they should be ignored…but what if they call some night when they really are sick?

They call with headaches, they call with a sick tummy, they call – I promise this is true – because “my arm is sore and I can’t lift the baby into the cot.”

One paramedic gave me his Worst Three.

3. Toothache. Not a screaming or roaring pain toothache. Just a toothache.

2. Insomnia. Really. Couldn’t sleep, call an ambulance and into hospital for a sleeping tablet.

And the winner? 

  1. The paramedic told me he didn’t know what this guy had said in his 999 call, but when they got him into the ambulance and asked what was wrong, he said he had ‘watched a scary movie and didn’t want to be on his own.”

Yes, I know there are people who give out about alcoholics and drug addicts and particularly young people who should know better but who took a tablet of some sort at a party, clogging up A&E.

But they are sick. Maybe there should be somewhere else for addicts and alcoholics, specialist clinics where particular expertise could help them.

There certainly should be somewhere else for people with sprained ankles and cruciate ligament strains and bloody noses – there are a few but nowhere near the number required.

There is something a bit sickening about Simon Harris telling RTE he went on an “unannounced” visit to a hospital. I don’t doubt he did. And I don’t doubt he wasn’t alone, had a driver and went home afterwards.

I’d like to see Simon spend a few nights on a trolley, I’d like to see him on that trolley beside an addict, I’d like to see him deal with the parents of a young person who, stupidly, took a tablet thinking it was going to be fun and is lying on a trolley in a coma.

But do you know what? – and the lefties won’t like this…

I’d like to see the people who don’t turn up, the people who check in to A&E and then walk out, the people who waste the time of ambulance crews, being penalised.

Because unless they are, they’ll keep on doing it…

…like the man, a few years ago, who one doctor established – and in a packed A&E I couldn’t help overhearing – had had 14 CT scans in 14 hospitals in a year.

Is it any wonder…?

Well, you know the rest of that question.

If only we knew the answer.

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