Hand-Wringing and Hand-Washing. Che Guevara and Irish Medical Consultants.

There are two remarkable stories in the news at the moment, entirely unrelated and yet both illustrating the grovelling nature of the Irish psyche.

The first is the appalling HIQA report on Irish hospitals which shows that even our most senior consultants lack the humility to wash their hands between visits to patients.  It seems that a gigantic amount of points in the Leaving Cert imbues these individuals with near-magical powers to kill bacteria by their personal wonderfulness.  And it also shows how different the Irish medical hierarchy is from the British, or indeed from any other similar body in the world.

I don’t have the figures to hand, but as far as I know, Irish hospital consultants are paid more money than anyone else in their field, anywhere.  Not only that, but from — admittedly anecdotal – sources, they retain the imperious, condescending attitude, not only to their medical colleagues, but also to their patients who, in many instances, are paying their fees.

This does not happen in Britain.

Irish medical consultants embody the elitism that underpinned the Irish Free State.  Scions of an elite bred to look down on everyone else, they continue to resist change and seem immune from the notion that they might ever be wrong about anything.  They have as much sense of entitlement as any dole scrounger but are utterly immune from criticism.

Let me finesse that a little.  Not all Irish consultants adhere to this mindset, with the outstanding example in my mind being Professor John Crown, an iconoclast who has never flinched from attacking the established norms.

One way or another, despite their endless years studying medicine, followed by more years pursuing their specialty, the consultants don’t seem to have learned one simple little lesson that most of us picked up from our parents before we were five years old.  Wash your hands.

Why is it that these astoundingly talented, intellectually turbo-charged achievers are unable to internalise this simple little truth?  Wash your hands and you won’t pass disease to other people.

How does the HSE respond?  Apparently, they’re going to appoint specialised nurses to challenge these masters of the medical universe.

Very good.  After nearly a century of nurses being intimidated by consultants, and not long after a nurse was pilloried for exposing Michael Neary, the woman-butcher,  they still think that an employee on €40 thousand can successfully challenge another part-time employee who gets €200k from the HSE and maybe twice that in private practice, facilitated by the public hospital he uses as his private office.

Show me your hands.


The HSE’s response to the HIQA report shows exactly why the Irish health service is in the state we find it.  Vested interests, men (mostly) suffering from a psychological disorder, the God Complex, and an administrative structure still rooted in the deferential 50’s.  Meanwhile, non-consultant hospital doctors are voting to take industrial action because of the savage hours they’re expected to work, endangering their own health and that of their patients.

Welcome to Ireland, and welcome to deferential, forelock-tugging gobshitery.

If you wanted an example of such gobshitery, you need hardly look further than the seaside town of Kilkee, in Clare.

Back in 1961, due to a delay in flights, Ché Guevara spent a night in this charming little place.  History doesn’t record what he did during this brief visit, but no doubt he took the air, walked the beach and perhaps enjoyed a brew in one of the wonderful hostelries.  One way or another, he somehow managed to bump into a local artist, Jim Fitzpatrick, who later went on to design the album covers for Sinéad O Connor, Thin Lizzy and The Darkness.  As a result of that meeting, Fitzpatrick produced an image of Che Guevara that became a worldwide icon, ending up on countless tee-shirts and innumerable student walls.

che guevara kilkee

Like any small seaside town, as you might expect, Kilkee decided to capitalise on the visit by a world-famous figure, and in recent years has run the Ché do Bheatha festival.  Non-Irish speakers might not get the joke.  It seemed appropriate to run a festival based on a world-famous figure with Irish roots.  Somebody painted a mural on the wall at the end of the beach where figures like Richard Harris played handball.  It was a faithful reproduction of Fitzpatrick’s famous image, and it looked all right, if a little hackneyed.  Authentic art by a local artist.   It stayed in place for a couple of years and so things rested until recently.

The Independent carries a report that might or might not be accurate.  We don’t know that yet, but we do know the outcome.  According to the Indo, an organ not known for being scrupulous about facts, it has to be said, a busload of American tourists took offence at the image and decided to leave the town of Kilkee without spending a single dollar.  Now, this in itself is a bit of a conundrum, since Ché Guevara never had any involvement with the USA and therefore it would be hard to see how these holidaymakers took offence, but there the story stands.  These blue-rinsed benefactors didn’t like the picture and that’s that.  Who they complained to is not clear, but one way or another, some official in Clare County Council seems to have taken the cue.  And even though the decision had already been taken to leave the mural in place for another few weeks until the Ché Guevara festival was finished, somebody decided to send in Council workers to obliterate the mural on the wall on the beach.

What’s the connection, you might be wondering?  What on earth does Ché Guevara have to do with doctors who don’t wash their hands?

Grovelling.  That’s the answer.  Some official in Clare County Council paints out a picture because a bunch of American geriatrics don’t like it and the HSE appoints powerless nurses to challenge the men with the God Complex.

That’s Ireland for you.  That’s why we are where we are.



Tea-Party Congresswoman threatens Galway over Che Guevara statue



15 replies on “Hand-Wringing and Hand-Washing. Che Guevara and Irish Medical Consultants.”

What about our own local dimwit politician Pat Kennedy. Wants to rename the Shannon Bridge after one of the Kennedys (of U.S. president fame) I would like to ask him why but it would be pointless.

Grovelling. Yes, that’s the word.

It reminds me of how drivers travelling between Dublin and Limerick over the past few months will have noticed signs sponsored by the NRA and Fáilte Ireland heralding Moneygall, Co Offaly as President Barack Obama’s Ancestral Home. Senator Mary White of Fianna Fáil lauded the campaign to get these road signs put in.
It galls me somewhat that Irish tax payers’ and road toll payers’ money has gone towards celebrating a man who has presided over the continuation and expansion of George W. Bush’s War on Terror.

However, whatever my views on Obama’s policies, the fact is Moneygall is a small place who want to reap the benefits of being associated with a world famous political figure. Why can’t Kilkee do the same with Che?

Interesting take on the whole hand washing debacle, especially the observation of lack of hygiene in the intensive care unit ,where the sickest patients in the hospital are. I don’t think it’s anything to do with a god complex or anything deliberate like that, NCHDs come in contact with patients on a much more regular basis and they are repeatedly shown to have the lowest compliance with the procedures, I think the reason is that culturally it’s not ingrained to observe these hygiene practices in the Irish health care system, doctors still wear ties, wear white coats, long sleeves all of which are absolute culture broths for bacteria, whereas in other countries its a no tie and bare below the elbow policy. Nurses no longer balk at the sight of a consultant, and if a nurses job is to enforce hand hygiene and a consultant deliberately refuses, trust me there would be trouble! As an aside, with the recent pay cuts to consultant salary, Ireland has had a massive problem in recruiting for the posts, look at drogheda for example, a pain consultant serving a catchment area of 200,000 people left his post after several months to go to Australia and no replacement has been found yet, leaving a lot of patients stranded, the reduced pay on offer in Ireland is a major reason for the failure to find a replacement, this scenario is replicated up and down the country in many different specialties, I think this is a case of be careful what you wish for

According to comments in there
it weren’t Americans who complained, but locals who feared that American tourist MIGHT complain.

Apparently a local barrister was behind it. And we all know how councillors react to so-called authorities. Someone with the same entitlement attitude as consultants. And locals with anticipatory obedience.

Not that many Americans turn up in Kilkee, apart from South Americans for the festival who probably wouldn’t mind nowadays to see a world famous picture of a countryman – or a by now generic icon.

There was a similar outcry in Galway with an artistic sculpture of Che. Didn’t follow it up, but the outcry was the same, that is of fear that Americans might find it offensive. (Does anyone ever consider that i. e. German tourists might be delighted? No? Well.)

Don’t know why it is that the Irish are so eager to please Americans, even if all they do is to embarrass themselves – all that forelock-tugging…

I still have that poster hanging in my living room, though not that red-black one of my student days, but a more, well, grown-up artistic one in a proper frame. (Besides all of the political stuff, he was a damn dishy guy after all…)

As for the hand-washing of consultants or general bedside manners, or nurses to be appointed as controllers of self-appointed half gods – I don’t see the connection with the removal of supposedly offensive art work.

The only connection is general gobshitery, as you put it.

If the consultants were Irish, or at least western, the problem would be solved.

Americans haven’t a fucking clue, and neither does the councilman from Clare. What’s been lost in Ireland is that it’s been apologizing (subconsciously) for being what made it so unique.

I miss the double parked cars of the 80’s in Dublin, or the bus driver who held up traffic on Arklow Main Street so he could get a bag of chips and take a piss. That fucker in Clare doesn’t get it, and is ruining what he’s trying to fix.

If any of you voted for him…..Shame on you.

Greg, I’m glad that I come back to a country where people can’t park wherever the fuck they please and some wanker bus driver doesn’t hold up the traffic on one of the national primary routes to take a piss. I love Ireland for what it is, but could do without the gobshitery.

Greg, I’m glad I come back to Ireland where people cant park wherever the fuck they want and a bus driver doesn’t hold up a national primary route because he wants to take a piss. I love Ireland for what it is but could do without the gobshitery…

…It got publicity.
Council, according to radio reports, considered it graffiti. Very strange world we live in. I wonder what they could consider art? Isn’t it well known around the world? I’ve seen it in San Francisco, New York and London. It can’t be that bad a depiction of Che. I think the artist attempted to copy Jim Anderson’s picture very well.
According to Wiki: Graffiti is writing or drawings that have been scribbled, scratched, or sprayed illicitly…
I’m splitting hairs.
I don’t believe it was either scribbled, scratched or sprayed, I believe it was painted.
I’m looking forward to the festival.

Here’s who else should be in charge of a consultant washing his/her hands – the patient. The same forelock tugging prevents many from challenging the doctors themselves. I have a child with major medical issues. It has caused me to be in far too many doctors’ offices, hospitals and post-op waiting rooms. My son has a list of -ologists that would impress a hypochondriac. I am in the US (knock yourselves out with Che by the way, most people here wouldn’t even be able to recognize him. Maybe the older generation. The younger, well he’s just a face on a tshirt). Attendants of all types(doctors, nurses etc) make a big deal of using hand sanitizer and washing their hands in front of you. If, for some reason you don’t notice them do so you ask them. I’ve had to do it once as I had my back to the cardiologist when he came in. He actually had but did an extra hand sanitizer thing to make me feel better. I appreciated it. Advocate for yourself. Don’t outsource that responsibility to the nurse unless you are in no fit state to speak for yourself.

We had an immediate family member in Ireland with cancer last year. I flew home. I have so much medical lingo from almost 10 years of hospitals that when I drilled down with questions I was actually given copies of reports, results, films etc.I think they weren’t sure what my deal was. I met with all the doctors and medical staff. I had them add a minor addition to the person’s treatment. A medical comfort item really but aiding in a quicker recovery from each bout of chemo. All the medical staff were very helpful. However, I do get the sense that if you listened to their spiel and then said “Right, thanks” that would be it. They would head off and you would be none the wiser. Ask, demand, be truthful, pull them on rudeness, expect good care, praise it when you get it, demand it when you don’t.

Incidentally in addition to hand washing there was an interesting find at Yale New Haven Hospital. They found that by eliminating neckties from the doctor’s ensemble the germ rate plummeted. It seems obvious in hindsight but ties are not washed/cleaned as often as other garments. The germs remained on the ties and were worn over several days in the month. Ties are discouraged there now.

Doctors not washing their hands is not a problem that is unique to Ireland. If you read Superfreakonomics, you’ll find that it’s actually a major problem in hospitals throughout the West, an has been so for hundreds of years.

That’s perfectly true. From what we hear in recent days, it seems to be widespread across the world.

Clearly, arrogance and stupidity aren’t confined to Ireland.

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