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I have both a love and a hate relationship with bank holidays. I never know whether to be happy or nervous. When a new, tentative bank holiday was announced last year, I was happy at first. I love bank holidays as they are a chance to relax and maybe do something special with a family or friends.

But I can also dread them. That’s because, like many people with disabilities, I pray not to get sick and end up in the hospital! Why? During weekends on these occasions many, if not all, GP surgeries are closed, and people have to rely on the “doctor on duty” services.

And if you go into the hospital there is only a skeleton staff with not enough consultants available because many will have chosen to take the Friday at the end of the week off, as well as the bank holiday Monday itself, which means that decisions about treatment are not made until Tuesday. I learned this because many years ago I was part of a group called Greater Dublin Independent Living [GDIL]. One year GDIL decided to hold a conference on the subject of the Health Service Executive [HSE] and how the health service responded to people with disabilities. As part of the preparation for this conference, a survey was carried out to learn what people’s experiences were concerning the medical services they used.

One question was about how people felt about services at weekends or bank holidays. I forget the exact wording of the question, but I remember that it was the question that received the most responses.

In my own experience I can recall my specialist consultant leaving for a week-long holiday. In his absence, and without his specific daily instructions, I was left in bed as though I were an ordinary ambulatory patient. There were no directives about my being helped to sit up or to get into a wheelchair so I could get around, which I loved.

In another instance, a member of my family was admitted with intense head pain one Friday evening to the Accident and Emergency Department. But there was no one to investigate the cause and he was told it was only a tensions headache and to go home. But it was not until the following Monday when the shingles virus was detected by microscope by the eye specialist in that department of the hospital.

I hope in years to come that a happy medium can be found where people with disabilities will not be afraid of going into the hospital at any time.

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