There’s a healthcare crisis in Ireland. The good news is that the bad news – about hospitals, housing, the economy and more – is all over the media. The bad news is that it appears that there’s more talk than action in addressing the issues. I’m guessing that this is a universal approach, not just an Irish one.

But when I compare my personal experience here with my experiences in the American lack-of-healthcare system, I’m in heaven [not the afterlife]. As with my American caregivers, once you’re face-to-face with someone, the care is excellent. Unlike my American experience, I’ve found that cost and accessibility are a breeze.

Case in point:

Those of you who’ve spent any time around me know that the hearing in my right ear is less than optimal. I blame it on the abuse that came from working rock concerts and radio, flying airplanes and firing lots of Uncle Sam’s noisier weapons for a quite a while. Now every few years things get particularly intolerable and I find a doctor to get rid of a wax build-up that just won’t come out on its own, no matter what I do. [My body’s still trying to protect itself from all that noise.]

After my usual home remedies and OTC stuff didn’t work, I walked around the corner to a doctor’s office. The receptionist listened to my tale, frowned, paused, and apologetically said that they were fully booked. Could I come back in an hour? A cup of coffee later I was sitting with a doctor who recommended an inexpensive, non-medical, supermarket solution. “If it doesn’t work in a week, come back and we’ll flush things out.” I returned in a couple of weeks, still deaf as a post on one side. I set an appointment for the next morning. The nurse who greeted me apologized profusely because she came to get me five whole minutes after my appointment time! Anyway, she restored my hearing in a couple of minutes. Then she asked me what I’d done to get all the scar tissue in my ear. While I gave her the history of possibilities, I was amazed that not one practitioner in America ever saw – or told me they saw – the damage and asked me more questions about my ear.

Oh, and the cost? My two very thorough, very friendly, very professional visits cost me less than my co-pay for a single visit to an American doctor. And I haven’t been here long enough to qualify for a local plan. I saw the nurse and a partner at the opera a few nights later. She recognized me and pointed to her ear when the interval came, asking how I was enjoying the show. I heard every note.

I’ll admit to being somewhat ignorant of what’s happening with the Irish healthcare system. My gut tells me that things are better than the headlines, but not as good as they could be, should be or were. When EU-mandated austerity hit a few years ago, salaries and hiring were frozen, graduating healthcare professionals left for the UK, Canada and Australia, and there were fewer people replacing retiring practitioners. Funding cuts also hurt facility capacity, maintenance and expansion, further encouraging new graduates to search elsewhere. Fewer caregivers and facilities combined with greater need is not a recipe for success. Naturally, people at the bottom of the economic ladder, who rely on emergency rooms for their primary healthcare, find things particularly bad. These are the people who become the poster children for a damaged system. In a sense, this is no different from America.

The difference is that here there’s an outcry to fix a broken system and extend care to those who need it. In America there’s an entire political movement whose objective is to deny people healthcare. And their voting rights, as well.

The US claims to be both a bastion of capitalism and a Christian country. Practicing Christians profess to believe and practice Mathew 25:35-40. “Whatever you do for the least of my brethren you do for me.”

Is capitalism compatible with Christianity?

Is capitalism compatible with caregiving?

Mathew 19:21; Luke 18:22