Medical Assistance in Ireland

What to Do and Where to Go Should You Get Sick

Mellerick's Pharmacy in Fermoy Town.
••• Richard Cummins / Getty Images

Being sick in Ireland is no fun, just like anywhere else in the world. So where should you go in Ireland if you need prescription medicines or a consultation with a doctor? Slainte (pronounced something like "slaan-shea") is Irish for "health" and traditionally you will get many wishes for a good health on your vacation. But what if words are not enough? Where do you get help if you should be feeling under the weather?

Here are some helpful hints.

Note that any charges given are for the Republic of Ireland. In Northern Ireland, you will be treated under the provisions of the Health Trusts, often for free.

Medicines

Depending on the type of medication you need, you can try the following;

  • Corner Stores, Newsagents, and Petrol Stations
    Anybody who sells daily necessities will more than likely stock a few standard medications against headaches, sore throats, coughs, and congestion.
  • Supermarkets
    Apart from having a comprehensive selection of non-prescription medicines, supermarkets are the place to go for cheap generic aspirin, ibuprofen, and paracetamol (acetaminophen). Many will also carry allergy medication should you have a bout of hayfever.
  • Pharmacies and Dispensing Chemists
    Quite often announcing their presence by a green cross, only these carry prescription medicines. Note that you will require an Irish prescription and that some medications may not be available as your usual brand name.
  • Vaccinations
    You can get a flu vaccination from many chemists for a small fee (often cheaper than from a GP), this is usually a walk-in. All other vaccinations must be done by a GP.

Doctors During Daytime

Ask your reception desk to identify the nearest doctor (GP, general practitioner) and phone them for you; this saves time and confusion.

You will more than likely be asked to pay cash for the consultation, but this should set you back no more than € 60, often less.

There are some walk-in clinics in larger towns and cities, these generally charge a bit more for the convenience.

Doctors at Night or on Weekends

Most doctors operate a strict "nine to five, Mondays to Fridays" schedule (or less). Outside these times you must either grin and bear it or contact DOC. This acronym stands for "Doctor on Call," an out-of-hours GP service at a central location. Again ask at reception for further details, fees will be around 100 € for a consultation.

Consultants and Specialists

If you feel that you need to see a specialist, a GP will have to agree first; consultants nearly never accept patients without a referral.

Hospitals - Accident and Emergencies Departments

Strictly speaking, hospitals are geared towards extraordinary emergencies, not everyday illnesses, but for a variety of reasons, the A&E departments are regularly overrun by patients with minor ailments. A triage nurse will determine the urgency of any new arrival, leading to long waits for some and a speedy reception for real emergencies. You may attend any A&E without referral; in the Republic, a charge of € 100 will be levied (for the rules on Irish hospital charges, read this link).

Emergency Medical Services and Ambulance Transport

In any (possibly) life-threatening emergency you should simply call 112 or 999 and ask for an ambulance especially if there is trauma, loss of blood, difficulty breathing, loss of consciousness, or similar. An ambulance will be dispatched immediately and you will then be heading (under professional care) for the nearest suitable hospital.

Emergency ambulance services are provided by the Health Service Executive and the Dublin Fire Brigade in the Republic, the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service north of the border. Private ambulances are also available, mainly for patient transfers.

Dentists

Ask at reception to set up an appointment. Unless you are in actual, severe pain it might, however, be the best course of action to skip a visit until you return home.

This should not be understood as a criticism of Irish dentists. It only highlights the fact that any treatment will be temporary more than likely and you will have to see your usual dentist anyway.

Alternative Medicines

There are a large number of practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Ireland, most of them actually Chinese and having their surgeries in city center locations. Almost every large shopping center in the cities has a TCM outlet these days, offering on-the-spot treatments (massage or acupuncture), long-term therapy and herbal medicines.

Physiotherapists are also widely available, but chiropractors are comparatively rare.

Other alternative medicines include the whole range from the homeopathic school to new age therapies. Please note that for all these services you will have to pay cash.