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