House Calls

This is a part of an occasional series on the healthcare system in Ireland.  I know that healthcare is getting a lot of press during the presidential election in the US.  Here in Ireland, the system is a hybrid public-private system.  There is a basic, public system that is available to all individuals living in Ireland.  It is paid for via the income tax.  There is also the option to buy health insurance, either through your employer, or on the open market.

We learned a new and interesting fact about Ireland recently:  the doctor house-call is alive and well!  We took the kids downtown last Saturday morning to take some pictures.  It was a bright and sunny day in Ireland, and we took advantage of the beautiful weather!  After a morning of sightseeing at The Ha’Penny Bridge, Trinity College, Molly Malone statue, and St. Stephen’s Green, we took the train back to our house.  On the train ride, Brad noticed a spot on Isaac’s neck that had swollen up.  It looked like a ping-pong ball was right below his earlobe.  This spot must have come up in just a few hours, because we did not notice it before then.

When we got home, I called our GP’s (general practitioner) on-call number.  I expected that I would talk to a nurse, and determine whether we should wait until Monday, or take Isaac over to the Children’s Hospital.  There are no “minor emergency clinics” in Ireland.  They just don’t exist.  However, we are an easy driving distance from the one of Ireland’s Children’s Hospitals, which is great.

On the phone, the nurse asked me some questions, and then asked, “Do you want the doctor to meet you to look at your son?”

My reply: “Meet us where?”

I’m sure the nurse thought I was a complete idiot – as she said, “at your home”.  This sounded great to me!  The nurse told me that the doctor on call would arrive at our house in about two hours.  And sure enough, two hours later, he came.  He was a young, friendly doctor, who arrived with the quintessential leather “doctor bag”.    He looked at the spot on Isaac’s neck, which was now a bit red, and tender to the touch.  He checked out his ears/nose/mouth, etc, and determined that Isaac had an infected lymph node.  He wrote a prescription for an anti-biotic, and we were done.  The whole visit took about 30 minutes.

(Of course, during that time, Liesl walked around in the living room proclaiming “Isaac has a big bump on his neck!” over and over again.)

We were charged €70 for the visit, a portion of which is tax-deductible, and another portion is reimbursed by our insurance.  When you factor in the insurance and tax deduction, it is about the equivalent of a co-pay in the US.  It was completely worth it for me to pay the €70, just to avoid a germy hospital waiting room, where our otherwise healthy son might have picked up the latest bug.  That, and being able to wait at the house rather than entertaining a kid in the waiting room.

And about a day later, Isaac’s lymph node bump was completely gone.

We are still on the learning curve for the healthcare system here, but it was really nice to be able to get a house call from a doctor at 5:00 on a Saturday afternoon.