Irish Emergency Room

Portiuncula Hospital in BallinasloeIf you should ever find yourself unfortunate enough to need emergency services while in Ireland, you could find yourself in worse straits.

Last night at around 11pm I found myself pulling into Portiuncula (go on, say it: “PORE-tee-UHN-kuh-luh”) Hospital’s car park. The hospital is in Ballinasloe, County Galway off the main Dublin/Galway road. I have visited a few emergency rooms stateside as well as hearing numerous stories about them from my sister who works as a paramedic in Oakland, California. I have to say, perhaps mostly due to its smaller population, Irish emergency rooms are a different thing altogether. For one, they’re far less frantic; no ER-like gunshot wounds bursting through the door every 5 minutes. Another major difference: Irish ER staff seem to be allowed their sense of humour on the job.

For someone from the US who is used to seeing ubermodern white-halled hospitals with stern businesslike attendants, the initial impression of an Irish hospital is quite different. First off, the building is older. The walls are not necessarily starch white and may have proudly displayed religious icons at regular intervals. The staff seem relaxed and approachable. They smile at you and seem genuinely concerned, though not so much so that the occasional bit of humour doesn’t slip in. At Portiuncula there even the occasional nun wandering the wards talking in a caring tone with patients.

Keep in mind that Ireland has socialised medicine. These hospitals are not raking in the cash from private sources, nor are they purely a business in the capitalistic sense – they are here to tend to the sick. No one in Ireland is ever refused care based on who they are, what their medical coverage is or where they’re from. Sure, taxes in Ireland might be 21%, but when you know that there is a hospital with a doctor to see you when you need it, it sure seems worthwhile.

Ireland may not have the best specialised laser surgery clinics in the world, but everyone here is guaranteed care, regardless of who you are; isn’t that an admirable attitude?