Review: The Ministry of Bodies by Seamus O’Mahony

Title: The Ministry of Bodies: A Year of Life and Death in a Modern Hospital

Author: Seamus O’Mahony

Published: 4th March 2021, Apollo

Status: Read March 2021 courtesy Head of Zeus/Netgalley


My Thoughts:

“We have disappointed each other, the ministry and me, watching each other grow from the breezy optimism of youth into crabbed middle age.”

Curiosity about the state of hospital services in countries other than the US, UK, and Australia is what prompted me to read The Ministry of Bodies by retired doctor Seamus O’Mahony, who writes of his final year of his career at what what he semi-affectionately calls the ministry, more formally known as Cork University Hospital.

“The management narrative – a cynically clever one – was that the ‘trolley’ [bed] crisis was due to ‘low number of discharges over the weekend’, not an inadequate number of beds.”

It’s depressing, though not surprising, to discover that Ireland is no more immune to the woes that affect modern hospitals the world over. The record of O’Mahony’s last year exposes yet another under-resourced hospital system, where the need for services is greater than bureaucracy provides.

“A round could not last longer than three hours….Assuming thirty patients over three hours (I had very often seen more than fifty), that gave an average of six minutes per patient.”

O’Mahony operates as a gastroenterologist consultant, practicing his specialty in his out-patient hospital clinic, and has a regular surgical list, but he spends much of his time in the hospital as a physician on the general medicine service. On the wards he sees patients whom other services refuse to claim, -alcoholics, the elderly, and somatic syndrome sufferers among them, documenting a daily litany of fear, frustration, courage, and crisis.

“I retired on 7 February 2020, the day before my sixtieth birthday.”

While there is some humour here in the absurdities, overall I found The Ministry of Bodies to be a disheartening read. At fifty-nine, O’Mahony finds he is tired of the expectation that he is to do more with less, by long hours, by management double-speak, and petty professional turf-wars, and really, who could blame him?


Available from Head of Zeus

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7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Carla
    Mar 14, 2021 @ 14:38:21

    I just read This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay and I felt the same way when I finished. For every doctor who makes a fortune doing plastic surgery and private practice on millionaires, there are plenty who feel like the authors we read.

    Liked by 1 person


  2. victoria7401
    Mar 14, 2021 @ 15:10:31

    This sounds like a compelling read . I’m going to add it to my tbr pile

    Liked by 1 person


  3. Sue
    Mar 14, 2021 @ 19:51:22

    I am in two minds as to whether I should read this or not. Will it enlighten me or make me even more disheartened? The reason being I’m an Aussie living in Ireland so I basically know the state of our Health system & it’s by no means disastrous from all accounts. Our waiting lists are monumental, if not insurmountable. But I’m intrigued by this review from Downunder.

    Liked by 1 person


  4. Trin Carl
    Mar 15, 2021 @ 03:31:09

    interesting to hear about Ireland. I’ve always wanted to visit ireland and find it so beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person


  5. Trackback: It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #SundayPost #SundaySalon | book'd out

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