In recent months, hospitals across the country have been in the headlines due to issues such as staff shortages, waiting times and a lack of beds.
Behind those headlines are thousands of sick patients, relying on the expertise of doctors, nurses and consultants to care for and treat them.
Inishowen author Hazel McIntyre was one of those patients.
Over a relatively short time, the esteemed writer, who is also very well-known in Derry, stayed in three hospitals across the North West - Letterkenny General, Altnagelvin and Sligo.
She is thankfully recovering well, but spoke to the Journal about her experiences to try and reassure anyone who may be facing a hospital stay or procedure.
Hazel told how, despite the issues facing hospitals today, she received the “greatest and most wonderful” care from all of the doctors, nurses and hospital staff she met.
“I know it’s not good if you’re waiting on a trolley for a bed or face a long wait for a procedure,” she said.
“ But, these are not the fault of the staff - it’s mainly the lack of money and resources. The staff who are there work so, so hard. My experience in hospital was made more positive and better because of all of them.”
She added: “The nurses and doctors were fantastic. They really couldn’t have been kinder and they had a great sense of humour. The consultants, too, were lovely, kind down to earth people and I do believe they are worth their salary and more. Even going to theatre, which is an awful experience for everyone,was made as easy as possible. They smiled and made little jokes. You don’t realise you’re in there until you’re ready to go out again. And, there was no ‘stuffiness.’ I found that they come and talk to you and tell you absolutely everything. That’s important - when you know what to expect. I think you’re better to know. Even if it’s not good news, people face up to it well. We have far more courage then we give ourselves credit for.
“For anyone who might be afraid of hospitals and most of us are, every test and every procedure is a big anxiety in advance of it.”
Hazel said she understands the ‘fear’ of hospitals and procedures, especially when there are concerns over the future of services in our local hospitals.
She said: “The fear of people in Donegal in particular is in relation to cancer services. We worry that the centre of excellency is in Galway. There are so many people having to travel down there and come back. It’s a long, long drive. It’s too far and it’s cruel to send people, particularly elderly people, the whole way to Galway. I do believe Letterkenny and Altnagelvin should be able to amalgamate for a number of services and those people closer to Altnagelvin, such a people from Inishowen, should be able to use it.
“ I know there is always a worry when you’re admitted to hospital. But I just want to reassure people that once you are in the hospital, when you’re admitted and particularly if you’re very ill, you will get a bed. It is awful hard to be sitting waiting but when you do get a bed you will be looked after well. The nurses are excellent, the surgeons are excellent, the anaesthetists are excellent. Everyone there is doing their absolute best for you and I really hope to take away some of the fear for people.”
Hazel said she could not thank the staff of all the hospitals enough.
She said: “I thank them all from the bottom of my heart. They couldn’t have been kinder or better to me.”