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Listening to sitting bull

This is a health warning. I will be talking a lot about poo in this missive. But then you are a health worker, a mother or a human being, so you will have some familiarity with the subject matter, especially if you eat plenty of fibre.

You know that only doctors and children are allowed talk about poo in this country. Kids think that words like ‘poo’ and ‘stink’ are a great source of entertainment, especially because they learn very early on that this is a forbidden subject for adults, therefore adding to its attraction as a source of discourse between four-year-olds.

Of course, the Americans are also trained to be culturally aware of their poo and apparently talk about it all the time, waxing lyrically about their health and their poo. They are not wrong, as the Australians might say.

But Joe Duffy’s radio show (Liveline) recently made poo a contemporary subject in the same way that Uncle Gaybo made the techniques for putting on condoms a source of Friday night educational entertainment some years past.

Back to Joe. It appears a shop and also a pharmacist refused to let a member of the public use their toilet facilities when the public member had the urgent need to go, due to Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis and IBS… in short, a ‘medical condition’.

There was disgust and outrage that the shop owners would refuse the request. This softened a little, but not much, when the pharmacist explained that, as they deal with “various types” of members of the public, this was their policy. But they did have sympathy with the person in genuine need.

There is now available a card, like the kidney donor card, that explains the condition of the person and that they may need to go urgently. This can be produced to the shop owner. Some of the patients found this card helpful and others did not know of its existence.

What I noticed more than anything was the complete absence of discussion about the local councils, to whom we give the money, role and responsibility to sort this public health issue out. The issue of poo.

They have universally closed more and more public access toilets all over the country, due to cost, vandalism and public order concerns, while HIQA-like people insist on standards in the private and hospitality industry that councils seem not to have to follow. Strange indeed.

I have been in a fair few surgeries in my time and I have noticed that the more public access there is, the more likely that there will be two toilets for staff and public patients. It is also more likely that the toilet seats will have been swiped and not replaced. Why would you go to you GP surgery and swipe their toilet seats? The loo paper too? The mirrors? The public! Holy God!

My GP surgery opposite Marley Park had a toilet, which was no problem until the music festival weekend came. The first girl came in, swooning on her high heels, and asked to use the toilet. This was followed by pre-drunken hoards. Her friends. So the doors had to be closed shut and no more permission given. I noticed later that the festival itself had facilities, but these were inside the gates and the gates do not open until a certain time. We had 200 people on our side of the road, drinking alcohol from the shop next door that, strangely, had no toilets for their customers but was selling drink in abundance. My politeness and guilt had me paying for the public’s toiletry needs and no profit or customers for me among this mob. But not for long. The door was closed. Firmly.

And sure, on a Joe Duffy show, I would be lambasted for not feeling compassion for the poor public who were in need. And me a doctor. Sure, doesn’t everyone take a drink in Ireland? Joe would take one of these hundreds of respectful revellers and find one who has IBS, allegedly, and they would talk about the IBS card and the urgent need to poo. And this card would have no photo ID, so like the medical card, easy to abuse time and time again. But that does not matter. What matters is facilitating people and ideas that are often unreasonable and create feelings of injustice and outrage. And let’s ignore either reasonable solutions or responsibility. That, seemingly, does not make good radio. So my health warning must be against listening to Joe. It may be as dangerous as poo.

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