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"A consultant's secretary who dismissed my inquiry and made me feel worse."

About: Bantry General Hospital Cork University Hospital Cork University Hospital / NeuroSciences

(as the patient),

In 2012 I was diagnosed with a rare spinal cord tumour, thanks to excellent diagnostic work by my GP and a neurologist at Bantry Hospital. I was referred to Cork University Hospital to see my neurosurgeon. I was told I needed an operation to try and remove the tumour. I was scared by this news. I was waiting for an appointment which did not arrive after ten days, so I rang the hospital. I wanted to ask my consultant some questions.

The secretary was rude to me ['Are you a private or public patient? Public? Oh, you won't even be seen until December. You're not even in the system here. '] At that stage I was losing my ability to walk and balance properly, and the thought of waiting eight months while the tumour grew was frightening. I asked the secretary if I could leave some questions for my neurosurgeon to answer. She told me I could not.

In despair I went to the UK where I was seen immediately by a UK neurosurgeon. He offered to operate. He told me I was 'decompensating' and that I would not recover movement I had lost. The operation should be done urgently.

Back to Ireland, and an appointment had arrived at my home address, which I had missed. This was entirely due to the secretary inaccurately telling me I would not be seen till December. My husband rang her and she refused to listen to him, giving him some jargon he was not familiar with.

At that point I left the Irish Health Service. I ceased to be an Irish resident and had the operation in the UK.

I am angry at the obstacles that were put in my way when I needed to find some facts quickly. It was a stressful time and I did not feel this secretary treated me as if I was an intelligent human being. Would things have been different if I had said I was a private patient?

I used to help train doctors in communication skills at the Royal College of Surgeons. This woman would be a good candidate for some training in interpersonal skills.

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