When I told people I was moving to Ireland, some people said, "Oooh! Free healthcare!" Well, on the one hand, it's pretty cool to have a medical card and not have to pay for medical care. On the other hand, here's how that plays out. Remember my rant about the new Irish policy about pap smears (aka smear test)? Well I figured I should run out and get one before the policy was implemented, so I did.
Several weeks later, I received a letter from the Health Service Executive (HSE) to call my doctor for the results. Admittedly, I put this off. So a few weeks ago, when Mark was in our doctor's office, she told him to tell me to give her a call. I called. And called. And called. And...called. Finally, I got in touch with the doctor, who told me that my test came back abnormal and that she would refer me to have a colposcopy.
Let's compare to how this went down in the US five years ago when I had a bad pap: A couple weeks after my appointment, my doctor called me personally to tell me the results, and referred me for a colposcopy, which I was able to get within a week or two.
Ok, so back to the here and now. So when I talked to the doctor on Friday, she mentioned that I would need to pick up a referral letter from her office...on Tuesday. Okey doke. On Tuesday I show up, get the letter, and I'm not sure what to do with it, but I call the Rotunda and the dude on the phone tells me that I have to physically bring the referral letter, which contains the lab results, to the Colposcopy Clinic, at which time my results will be evaluated and scored in terms of how severe it is. The people who do the lab test triage (only two doctors) only do so on Wednesdays and Thursdays. In two weeks, I'll get a letter saying that I've been put into the list to get an appointment.
When I brought the referral letter to the clinic, I was told that if my lab results are as bad as they can be, the soonest appointment I'll get will be in FEBRUARY. So I could have cancer and I wouldn't find out for three months, basically. Luckily, I looked at the labs and I know that I only have a slight abnormality, and I'm not overly concerned for myself. But if I were actually ill, I would be majorly screwed. Still, I won't get an appointment until March or April, most likely.
Know what's crazy though? The guy at the clinic said that the clinic has only been swamped like this since Jade Goody died. So essentially her death caused loads of women to get smear tests. And those who had abnormalities probably never would have gotten them checked out and would be walking around not getting treatment. I know that a lot of people thought it was lame how public she made her death, but actually it seems like doing it that way has done some good in educating people.
I don't want friends and family reading this to be worried -- I'm sure it's nothing at all, and even if I have dysplasia, there are treatments to take care of it. So I'm not worried, and neither should you be! However I wanted to make this post because I think people should know that "free" medical care isn't all it's cracked up to be.