By John Dunne, Portlaoise man and moderator of the website portlaoisepictures.com
At the outset, I must say this: Apart from a close encounter with one surgeon who exuded such a powerful aura of nicotine that I hardly needed the local anaesthetic for my procedure – during which he uttered a very audible expletive – my personal experience of Portlaoise hospital has been positive.
But… In 2007, our town hit national headlines when it emerged that nine local women had been given the wrong cancer diagnosis. They were initially given the all-clear, then told that they were, in fact, suffering from breast cancer. The Official Investigation attributed such carelessness to 'system failure'. System failure. In my book, a euphemism for someone not doing their job properly.
In 2014, it was revealed that, over a six year period, four babies - none of whom had any congenital abnormalities or experienced any infection - died during, or shortly after birth in the hospital. Again, a result of complete carelessness (failure to learn from previous errors, failure to act on signs of foetal distress, failure to properly administer the relevant drug). And, to add insult to injury, the distressed parents were treated, to say the least, in the most cavalier manner by hospital authorities.
As reported in The Irish Times (11.11.2016), inspections by the Mental Health Commission in December 2015 and June 2016 raised concerns about the mistreatment of patients in the hospital's psychiatric unit. Children were accommodated in a high-observation dormitory with adults, without any age-appropriate facilities or activities. Adults were kept in emergency seclusion for up to 12 days, in one case with blinds drawn and without showering. Some patients were not allowed out of what was effectively solitary confinement until they had "expressed remorse for their actions."
That paragraph reads like something from a Charles Dickens novel, but it's the reality of life in the 21st-century for some of our people in the 'care' of the state.
For all our technological and medical advances, it sometimes seems that one vital consideration is in short supply. Compassion. Who is in charge of the day-to-day running of our hospital? Whoever had hand, act or part in any of the outrages I've mentioned should be named and held responsible for dereliction of their professional duties. And maybe even express remorse for their actions/inaction.
Over recent days, social media have been inundated with torrents of anti-Donald Trump hysteria: people telling us how his election made them cry; how they were rendered speechless; how dangerous he is; how the end is nigh. Obscene name-calling, stupid talk about assassination ... Of course no-one could ever condone much of his behaviour throughout the campaign, but what's done is done, he's been elected and the world is going to have to live with that.
People can fling all the insults they like, but I think the Irish people I've heard whinging about something they can't change would be better off complaining about social injustice, political corruption, greedy bankers, homelessness, lack of concern for the disabled, the underfunding of education, neglect of the elderly, the ignominious treatment of hospital patients.... the list is endless... in our own country.