When it comes to healthcare in Ireland, the news isn’t good. The headlines in the papers and the television news reports are ripe with exclamations of how badly the system has broken down in recent years. Stories of patients waiting for beds, tests and appointments are featured daily in the Irish media.

As someone who has no private health insurance here, my own experience has been quite good. For 50 quid I can see my general practitioner and she’s available with one or two days’ notice. My prescriptions cost about 10 euro on average. Of course I have never needed emergency hospital care – which according to the news reports is a whole different story all together – until recently.

Last week I went to my GP complaining of chest pain, rather a tightness in the middle chest area, for the previous few days. She surmised it was likely esophageal spasms caused by an upsurge of stomach acids. While I was there she took my blood pressure, which was surprisingly high; I’ve always had perfect readings and my last check was only a few months ago, also perfect. She prescribed meds for the spasms and told me to come back in a few days. When I returned with the same symptoms and high blood pressure, she sent me to the emergency room at Beaumont – a public hospital in Dublin.

And that’s where I got my first dose of the reality that is public healthcare in Ireland.