Sit­ting on a doorstep with­out a cush­ion used to be con­sid­ered pretty risky, says Mau­rice Gueret, but there’s no need to worry

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - RUDE HEALTH -

cold bot­tom could pro­voke se­ri­ous ill­ness! I promised last week to tell you also about a win­ter chill on the liver, an ail­ment, if I re­call, that was as­so­ci­ated with walk­ing on a blus­tery beach af­ter Christ­mas, but, alas, I have not been able to track down my grand­fa­ther's book on com­mon ail­ments in the in­ter­ven­ing week. It is some­where at home, but as a se­ri­ous book col­lec­tor rather than a well-or­gan­ised li­brar­ian, it has yet to sur­face. It will some­day, and I will treat you to some for­got­ten and by­gone ill­nesses when it does. Jamie Oliver is com­ing to Dublin, but, alas, he is go­ing into my least favourite cathe­dral, at the Dun­drum Town Cen­tre. I have sam­pled his an­tipasti in Lon­don and I think per­ox­ide Ire­land will en­joy the well-for­mat­ted menus he has hit upon. I was hop­ing that when he comes to launch his new eatery here, he might be per­suaded to visit a few hos­pi­tals and do for pae­di­atric wards what he tried to do for UK school dinners — namely point out how ugly the food is. The mum of a tod­dler wrote to me the other day about her ex­pe­ri­ence in the pae­di­atric ward of one of the big­gest re­gional hos­pi­tals in the state. Six days of chips, chips and more chips. Mixed with sausages one day, sausage rolls the next, then chicken nuggets, fol­lowed by chicken burger . . . you get the pic­ture. On the Sun­day, all stops were pulled out — the first non-chipped potato of the week ap­peared and some rare things called veg­eta­bles. Den­tists may not be pleased to hear that fruit-juice car­tons were the only drink of­fered to the chil­dren — milk was hard to come by and there was no bot­tled wa­ter to be had. I have lost count now of the num­ber of health pro­mo­tion staff em­ployed by the health ser­vice in the last two decades. It runs into hun­dreds, if not thou­sands. Per­haps Jamie could ask them all to be re­de­ployed to the kitchens for the chop­ping of fresh pro­duce. Be­cause our health ser­vice is cer­tainly not prac­tis­ing what it preaches. On hol­i­days in Italy more than a decade ago, I dis­cov­ered it was an old tradition there that fam­ily mem­bers pre­pared much of the food for their sick rel­a­tives when they were in hospi­tal. They would not only bring the food in, but would help their rel­a­tives to eat it if nec­es­sary. I am un­cer­tain if the prac­tice still per­sists there, but I do know that it does go on here in many Ir­ish hos­pi­tals, such is the poor qual­ity of re­con­sti­tuted frozen dinners and chip-shop fare on of­fer. I told you re­cently that I was read­ing Alan Bennett's Un­told Sto­ries again on hol­i­days. He makes the ex­tra­or­di­nary claim in the book that long-stay pa­tients with de­ment­ing ill­nesses in hos­pi­tals and nurs­ing homes even­tu­ally die of star­va­tion rather than any­thing else. He says there sim­ply aren't enough staff, and per­haps can­not ever be enough staff, to take the time to feed ev­ery pa­tient ad­e­quately. I don't re­call much dis­sent be­ing ex­pressed at his views. I am sure our Health In­for­ma­tion and Qual­ity Author­ity are well aware of the im­por­tance of keep­ing reg­u­lar weight charts for all pa­tients in long-term care. Rel­a­tives should also keep an eye on this too. Nurses were re­luc­tant par­tic­i­pants in the head­lines this month when some strange goings-on were re­vealed by their reg­u­lat­ing body An Bord Al­tranais. There was the case of an ax­il­lary ther­mome­ter (meant for the armpit) be­ing used to rup­ture a pa­tient’s eardrum when it was mis­taken for an ear one. Then there was the un­for­tu­nate pa­tient who had ear­wax drops ad­min­is­tered to their eyes. Such er­rors shouldn't cast as­per­sions on the whole body of nurses in Ire­land, but they do raise ques­tions about train­ing — par­tic­u­larly over­seas train­ing and the level of com­pe­tence and lan­guage skills that are stip­u­lated by reg­is­tra­tion bod­ies here. I wouldn't dream of prac­tis­ing medicine in a coun­try with a dif­fer­ent lan­guage un­less I had un­der­gone six-months to a year of in-house train­ing and a se­ri­ous as­sess­ment of lan­guage pro­fi­ciency by fel­low doc­tors be­fore be­ing let loose on the wards. Pa­tients de­serve no less.

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