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Shannondoc Thurles God Save Us

Plain arrogance, no I am not referring to disgraced Willie O’Dea’s announcement that he will run again for the position of TD in the next General Election.

Maybe it is because my own family doctor offers me and my dependants a five star service. By five star service I mean accurate diagnoses, the insistence that every possible eventually be fully checked out,  asks clear and direct questions regarding my particular demise at the time of my visit, which thankfully is not that often.

Firstly I should explain, Shannondoc is a co-operative set up by the General Practitioners in the Mid-West region in partnership with the Health Services Executive Mid-West. Its purpose is to provide an out-of-hours service to patients, while improving the quality of life for our doctors and while appearing to preserve what is left of basic rural general practice. Shannondoc was put in place prior to the downgrading of all of our hospital services in the County of Tipperary and to many residents is the last remaining vestage of fast immediate help for babies and the elderly.

It is not a walk-in service however and you must make an appointment before you attend the nearest treatment centre, which is why Thurles residents must  phone Limerick, 95km away to contact the Thurles service which is just 2km away. Calls to this service are taped so certain of my allegations made in this statement can be fully validated.

So to the tale and let me say that my first dealing with Thurles Shannondoc, at about 7.30 on Saturday night last, was certainly not worthy of even a one star certification.

The saga began with a call to Limerick 1850-212-999, where a very professional sounding receptionist answered and requested details and a brief description of the ailment. It was explained that one of my dependants was suffering from a  severe throat infection. The receptionist stated that she would contact  a nurse who would then call me back to discuss and assess the patients condition.

My dependant received a call from the nurse within a reasonable time and was immediately invited to attend St. Mary’s Day Hospital here in Thurles at an appointed time given, which was 7.50pm.

My dependant arrived a couple of minutes before the appointed time and was shown to the empty waiting room, where she waited for only a matter of minutes before seeing a doctor, who confirmed my own diagnoses that my dependant had a septic throat.

The male doctor wrote a prescription for Clavamel Forte Tablets, latter used to treat bacterial infections in the sinuses, ears, bladder and chest and is a combination antibiotic containing Amoxicillin and Clavulanic Acid, commonly sold under the name which many mothers will know as Augmentin.

I have no complaint regarding the system up to this time.

Here in Thurles, however, chemists do not open after 6.00pm on Saturdays.  Informed of this the doctor informing my dependant that paracetamol would help her condition until she could find a chemist opened some 15 hours later, to fill this required prescription. Having paid €55, my dependant left following this three minute consultation.

Some 20 minutes later, unhappy with my dependants condition, since a chest rash had now appeared and also the fact that future plans included the necessary catching of the 10.50am Sunday morning train to Dublin, I phoned the Shannondoc system again. My limited knowledge of strep throat infections, based on previous experience, indicated to me that skin infections, soft tissue infections, and pneumonia or lung infection could follow if not treated immediatly. So this time I requesting that an anti-biotic be given to my dependant by the doctor until a dispensing chemist could be found open for business the next day.

Following this contact, again organised by Limerick, a nurse phoned me back, as is the common practice and informed me that paracetamol should be sufficient. I explained my dependants current position and also pointed out the necessity of being in Dublin, leaving Thurles before any dispensing chemist was open for business. It was then that the ‘condescending smart mouthing’ began by the nurse/ receptionist possibly seated in  St. Mary’s Day Hospital.

Nurse / Receptionist: “Could the patient not stop along the way to fill the prescription?”
Me: “Regrettably no as she is travelling by train,  CIE are unlikely to oblige.”
Nurse / Receptionist: “Well she will have to wait then until she gets to Dublin.”
Me: “Could you not please ask the doctor if he can give her enough anti-biotic this evening, enough perhaps to carry her through until Sunday afternoon, his prescription is for an antibiotic, so he agrees she obviously needs the treatment.”
Nurse / Receptionist: “Are you a doctor.”
Me: ” No, but I have sufficient knowledge and experience to know when my dependants have a severe septic throat, so could you please convey my request to the doctor concerned.”
Nurse / Receptionist: “Paracetamol should be sufficient.”
Me: “My dependant did not pay €55 for confirmation of an obvious diagnoses by her father, her attendance with you clinic was to obtain medication, so if  you please could I speak to the doctor involved.”
Nurse / Receptionist: “No I will have to consult with the Doctor myself. I will phone you back.”

End of conversation  8.10pm approximately.

At 9.10pm, one hour later, having received no call as promised, I again rang Limerick, asking whether the doctor in Thurles was going to phone me back, to be informed that I could expect a call shortly.
Within one minute I received a call from a foreign sounding male asking if I lived close by and informing me that the requested medication was now available for collection.
I drove to the Day Hospital and rang the doorbell. A doorman answered the door and I was handed a small folded brown business envelope marked in biro with just the words “For Collection.” I asked could I see the doctor, but was informed that he was too busy to see me, as he was on the telephone. I asked that the doctor be informed that I was not pleased with the overall service and left.
On returning home I opened the brown letter to discover two unwrapped pills looking remarkably like two Paracetamol tablets. These pills bore no markings of any degree to identify this prescribed medication.

So, marks out of ten for Thurles Shannondoc – a reluctant one out of ten.
Marks out of ten for simple common telephone conversation courtesy, from a professional –  a definite zero out of ten.

Next time my family doctor is not available it’s the nearest Accident and Emergency for me. I may have to wait,  but at least it won’t be just a mere nurse who decides whether or not I am granted an audience with his majesty doctor somebody or other.

It would appear our current health problems are not all caused by Mary Harney and the Health Service Executive. There exists an arrogance and a reluctance to treat suffering people respectfully, and this must be immediatly eradicated from the system if it is progress.

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2 comments to Shannondoc Thurles God Save Us

  • I’ve only had to use Shannondoc on a few occasions, for my own children. Generally I found them quite good to deal with, but I never had an urgent medical problem that needed urgent attention or medication. It was usually some ailment with an infant that frightened us as new parents, and we were quite happy to hand over whatever fee was asked just to be told everything was ok. As first time parents, anything out of the ordinary would scare the life out of you. It was only afterwards that we would think that we were after getting ripped off. Forking out €50 a go for a 5 minute consultation seems a bit much to pay for a child, whether it’s through Shannondoc or a local GP. Medical care is free for expectant mothers, I don’t know why it can’t be extended to the child for at least a few years after they are born, at least for basic diagnoses or the ‘5 minute consultation’. What’s more, it should not be done with the State having to foot the bill.

    On a positive note for Shannondoc I’ve found the advice given by nurses over the phone has often been quite helpful and reassuring and has often negated the need to visit the doctor. If a similar ‘helpline’ was available during the day it could cut back on a lot of unneccesary visits to the doctor.

    In your case, or any other case, where medication is required, surely the doctor prescribing same, knowing full well that it’s not going to be available anywhere close by at the late time Shannondoc operates, should surely be able to provide the required medication or something similar there and then.

  • Hi Derry,
    I was not raising, as you probably understand, the issue of cost here, which is actually a fee of €60. It was the fact that medicine was not given, despite the knowledge that same was not easily available and the arrogant insistence in 2010 that a patient could wait for her prescription until a chemist opened some 15 hours later, when the required medicine was easily to hand. It is this kind of attitude within our health system which has left a small child having the wrong kidney removed recently, despite the parent raising the issue. It is this system which allowed a Consultant to remove wombs in a Louth hospital and for which taxpayers must fund large compensation.

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