Wednesday, June 24, 2009

My foray into Irish healthcare

When I was in England, I tried to avoid dealing with the NHS at all costs. Not because it was inadequate, but because the receptionist at the GP where I first registered was really rude to me and I had a difficult time getting a prescription due to them not listening to me and assuming I was just another immigrant trying to abuse the system. Yeah, it put me off a bit. In the UK they only do pap smears every three years and since I had one right before I moved there I wasn't about to argue with them to give me one every year 'like in America'. That statement doesn't go over well with people. Ireland has a dual system: you pay for healthcare if you make over a certain amount, but there is a national system for those who don't. Personally, I think this is the way to go, and hopefully Barack Obama is reading my blog. It certainly has it's upside: everyone here has healthcare, and it's downside: you don't always get what you pay for. Even though I'm unwaged (see previous post), my husband isn't, so we pay for our insurance. For the two of us, we have paid about 1100 euro for one year of insurance. This sounds like a lot, but when you compare that to the cost of healthcare in the US, it's minimal.

So anyway, back to the pap smear (because I knew you wanted to go there), it was on my radar to get this taken care of when I moved to Ireland. Wes keeps telling me it's impossible to find a GP that's taking new patients, so he's not much help when I'm trying to figure all this out. Is it like the UK where you have GP catchment areas within the NHS or is it like the US where you have to find someone who takes your insurance? The girls I do know in Dublin most likely still go to the GP they registered with before they moved to Dublin, so they were no help with recommending a doctor. Wes is still registered with his GP in Cork, so that's useless. There's a clinic around the corner which is run by our insurance company, so I started there. I really had no idea if this was going to be our GP, but they do the cervical exam (FREE to anyone between 18 and 60 in Ireland) and I signed myself up for a health scan (partially covered by insurance) and mole mapping (not covered by insurance). I am one of those freaks who is not afraid of the doctor or dentist. This is probably because I haven't had anything seriously wrong with me (knock on wood) and I always made the 'no cavity' picture wall at the dentist. I was mostly annoyed that my appointment was at 8am. Brutal.
The health scan checked for tons of things. He took blood first off which will be checked for numerous things of which I can only remember 'cholesterol', did an ECG, checked my vision (after my experience at the DMV, this was the scariest bit!), hearing, height, weight, BMI, cervical test, breast exam (because I requested it), blood pressure, temperature, listened to my heart and lungs, then did the mole mapping. I have been terrified that I have skin cancer on my head because my scalp gets burned really easily and I can't see it to check for any abnormalities. I blame a very scary article in Redbook magazine for this. I had a few moles that he flagged and I made him pick through my hair like a monkey. I got the all clear on everything so far (the blood was sent off to be tested, etc) and remarkably, I don't need glasses. I thought for sure I would. He said my right eye is 20/25, but my left eye is 20/20 and together they're 20/20. Sweet!

The doctor was really nice. He talked a lot about America and how nice Americans are. This always makes me happy. He said the best thing about America is that when you become an American citizen, you're 'American'. Period. In the UK they will call you 'British-Asian' even if you were born in the UK and identify solely with British. He actually thought the BBC was the worst offender of this labeling. He also really liked how in the US you can study for a degree in anything, then choose later to become a doctor if you'd like. Here you have to decide very early on if you want to be a doctor, and start studying towards that at a very young age. I thought it was an interesting perspective.

Oh, and as for finding a GP, he looked as confused by my question as I felt. He was clearly couldn't understand why I was having problems find someone. He told me about one around the corner. Oops. Hopefully they're taking patients!

Next challenge....finding a dentist!


  1. Hi Kim! Glad you had a good experience - we go with private insurance too and I've had a lot of health issues lately but I truly feel I've been getting excellent care here. If it's convenient for you, I love my dentist at Annes Lane Dental Clinic on South Anne Street (right off Grafton Street). Which reminds me that I should schedule a check-up...

  2. Thanks Beth! I'm glad you are pleased with your care and I have been so far as well. Also the dentist referral is great! Thanks!