My recent stay in hospital just confirmed to me how lucky I am to live in Sheffield, which has been my home since I was 18 years old.
I was diagnosed with a rare form of epilepsy called Todd’s Paresis. Would this rare condition have been diagnosed if I had been taken ill elsewhere? Would I have received the same excellent medical care outside of this country if I could not afford to pay for it – in my home town Dublin, for example?
The Republic of Ireland has a two-tier health care system − the state-funded healthcare system and private healthcare. Everyone is eligible for the state healthcare, but people have to pay towards their healthcare costs according to income, age, illness and disability. Those receiving welfare payments, low earners, and those with long-term or severe illnesses are eligible for a medical card which entitles them to some medical treatment – not all. There is a €100 charge for attending A and E departments. A GP visit costs between €50 and €75. Private healthcare insurance costs around €1,000 per month.
My 86-year-old sister Marcella, lives in Dublin and recently had an operation on her back. She is a widow and lives on her own and would have been entitled to the operation through the public healthcare system, but she would have to wait months and pay some of the cost. She has private healthcare insurance and decided to have the operation done straight away. Despite having an anaesthetic she could not stay in hospital overnight because the hospital did not have 24-hour nursing cover. Instead, a member of her family stayed with her at home while she recovered.
Sheffield has some of the best teaching hospitals in the world, a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week healthcare system free at the point of delivery. When I hear people moaning about our NHS, I tell them how lucky we are. We would not get this anywhere else in the world. I cannot praise the NHS staff enough for the care I received. Everyone has an important role to play, from the cleaners, cooks, porters, ambulance drivers, and medical and administrative staff to ensure the system works.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the 15,000 people employed in Sheffield Hospitals for providing a first-class healthcare system, free to all of us whenever we need it.