Tourist on 'retirement cruise' feels she is 'being held hostage' by Irish healthcare system

An elderly American tourist feels like she is “being held hostage” by the Irish healthcare system after sustaining a serious injury in Cobh more than three weeks ago, writes Kelly O'Brien in Cork's Evening Echo.

Tourist on 'retirement cruise' feels she is 'being held hostage' by Irish healthcare system

An elderly American tourist feels like she is “being held hostage” by the Irish healthcare system after sustaining a serious injury in Cobh more than three weeks ago, writes Kelly O'Brien in Cork's Evening Echo.

Retired lawyer Robyn Coyle has hit out at the “severe lack of communication” between doctors and patients, claims she still is not entirely sure what her injury is or what her treatment will be, and thinks facilities are of an unacceptable standard.

The 66-year-old said that in three weeks she has not once been allowed to have her hair washed, and has not even had a ward TV to distract from her intense pain.

Robyn came to Cork at the start of the month on a cruise ship, accompanied by her husband Richard, a fellow retiree who used to work in IT. The pair went on a day trip to Blarney but, upon returning to the vessel, Robyn’s mobility scooter overturned when she attempted to drive it up the gangplank.

The Californian woman fell from the vehicle, landing on her side and shattering her hip. She was subsequently brought to Cork University Hospital.

Robyn Coyle being loaded onto a stretcher after her accident.
Robyn Coyle being loaded onto a stretcher after her accident.

Some 22 days later and Robyn is still here. She claims doctors have not yet made a firm decision on whether or not to operate on her, or to put her on a financially crippling air ambulance back to the US.

Initially, said Robyn, doctors at CUH told her she would have to have surgery on her hip, but said they were not comfortable doing the operation at the facility. As such, Robyn was taken to Tallaght Hospital and was scheduled for surgery there.

“At first they told me that in order to do the surgery I had to have been here for ten weeks. That’s just to get the surgery, not including recovery time afterwards. I’m not sure why, they didn’t tell me,” said Robyn.

“Then they said they would do the surgery and after seven to ten days recovery I could go home. But they kept flipping back and forth about it. Then they were going to do the surgery, and I was made to fast, but on the day the doctor said he reviewed my bloods and X-Rays and was not going to do the surgery after all. I don’t know why. I’ve never gotten a straight answer.”

As yet, the surgery has still not taken place. Robyn has been transferred back down to CUH and has since been informed that she needs to get an air ambulance back home – a service which may cost the Coyles as much as $100,000.

Robyn still feels, however, that her treatment plan is not set in stone and could change at any moment. She said she could deal with the physical pain and the financial burden better if she knew for certain what was going to happen.

She said she has experienced “a severe lack of communication” in hospitals here so far, and does not have any faith in our healthcare system.

“I’ve been in hospital in the US and the communication there was better. Communication is 90% of why it’s so miserable for me here. There’s no communication here at all. We don’t know what’s going on and they won’t tell us,” she said.

“And this sounds a bit like I’m being a spoiled brat, but there’s not even a TV in here, in the ward. There’s a bracket for a TV, but no TV. They don’t have one here and they didn’t have one in Dublin. What more can you do all day other than lay here and look at your toes?”

Robyn said that if she knew exactly what her diagnosis was, she would find her situation easier to deal with.

“We called the embassy and they said they couldn’t do anything. I feel like I’m being held hostage. I’ve never given my permission to stay here.”

Financially, Robyn’s insurance will pay for some of the costs, while her husband’s insurance will cover others. If they add their own retirement savings to this, they will “just about” have enough to cover all medical costs.

“Our primary insurance provider is essentially saying the emergency is over. She’s not in a life-threatening position any more, so they’re not going to pay for everything. They pay when you’re out of the country for emergencies to get you into a stabilised condition,” said Richard.

“This was supposed to be my retirement cruise. I just retired in May and this was my celebration. Now we have to use all our savings to pay for medical costs. We might even have to refinance the house.”

Robyn and Richard’s family have set up a fundraising page to help them. Anyone who would like to donate can go to www.gofundme.com/2hq6t9k4.

This article first appeared in today's Evening Echo.

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