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A quiet message of medical resistance

Hungary has a long history. They talk of their 1,000 years of history like we talk of our 700 years of oppression by the British Empire.

Many empires have walked over Hungary — the Germans, the Soviet Russians, the Austrians, the Ottoman Turks. But now Hungary is a peaceful part of the European Union. For the moment! Like the Eurovision song contest, we just don’t know how long the EU will last in its present form or where our place in it will eventually be.

A Hungarian rebellion in 1956 against Soviet occupation left many dead. However, numerous concessions were given after this, and when the Soviet bloc broke up, Hungary peacefully gained independence.

Ireland got independence not because of our strength, but at a time when the British Empire was weakened by the enormous cost of two World Wars.

So what are GPs in Ireland to do in terms of resistance? We are a cultural sub-group trying to offer resistance to inflicted wounds from our own kind. We have had a long and venerable culture of community care on the front line, which preceded the growth of empires in Government buildings, Hawkins House and King’s Inns.

Too many judges and not enough medical workers will see the continuing disintegration of family medicine as we used to know it

A permanent government that is addicted to the idea of centralised bureaucracy without partnership and the idea of perfect tertiary care without resourced primary or secondary care will, like all empires, fall apart.

A legal culture that presumes that doctors make worse mistakes than other humans, and that perfect practice can be achieved by public humiliation and unreasonable demands must, in time, also crumble, even if it takes a thousand tears and a thousand years.

It is hard to say at this point whether the battle around rural medical care without GPs will be the turning point or whether it will be the battle concerning after-hours care and weekend cover.

More and more young GPs, both male and female, have no interest in the traditional notion of being available 24/7 every day of the year, while being actively abused by a litigious society and many layers of overseers. Too many judges and not enough medical workers will see the continuing disintegration of family medicine as we used to know it.

It is only 100 metres from Hawkins House to Amnesty International Ireland’s head office. When doctors have the human right to make reasonable human mistakes and when the Soviet-like policing of our health workers is seen as bullying, things will be better.

When the same level of care is given to our doctors and our citizens as is given to the pen and the paper, the computer record and the medical protocol, obeyed with mindless obedience, then our country will be free again and maybe, just maybe, 1916 will have meant something, as 1956 meant something in Hungary.

The abuse of power will always be the greatest human challenge. Even more so at institutional level. The British have gone but some systems of obedience and unaccountable control remain intact. Passive resistance will continue until then, including the migration of doctors to better and more humane conditions.

Meanwhile, I will actively and passively resist the McDonaldisation of love on Valentine’s day. “Szeretem az életet a maga módján”.

Love your life in your own way.

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