A county Armagh mother has hit out at the eight hour wait she and her sick four-year-old child had to endure before receiving a call back from the out-of-hours doctor last night.
Martina Tighe’s son, who is asthmatic and prone to chest infections, was told she would have to wait between three and four hours for a call back when she phoned yesterday afternoon – but it turned out to be more than double that!
The young mother blasted the “terrible” service, which in the past, has forced her to drive to Castleblayney in search of care.
Martina contacted Armagh I after the protracted wait for phone advice from the on-call GP.
She said: “I contacted the doctors on call yesterday (Sunday) at 12.58pm about my 4-year-old son, who is asthmatic and prone to chest infections was complaining of chest pain. I was told that the call back time was between three and four hours. I didn’t receive a call back until 8.58-8 hours later!
“I’m sure I am not the only one who is experiencing this terrible health care service! This has been the case for the last year at least anytime I call! I have on occasion had to take my children to Castleblayney (county Monaghan) and pay €60 to see the doctor on call when it was urgent.”
She added: “The Southern Trust does not want us to be going to the hospitals for non emergency problems, but we can’t get access to the out of hours doctors. The removal of access to adequate health care for people in this area is unacceptable and dangerous.”
She continued: “I feel this is a very dangerous situation but thankfully my son is OK. When we need to see the doctor urgently we always end up ringing out of hours, but we’ve had to go to Castleblayney a few times now and most times we are home from there – having had to wait for approximately an hour to an hour and a half before being seen by doctor – with our medicine that the child needed, medicine given, the child in bed, and all asleep before we even get a call back from doctors in Armagh. This should not be how it is.”
A spokesperson for the Southern Health and Social Care Trust said: “We apologise to any patients waiting longer than expected for our GP out of hours service. The service was extremely busy over the recent weekend responding to more than 1,300 calls and this led to delays in response times.
“The Trust issued regular updates over the weekend via Facebook and Twitter to advise the public that GP Out of Hours was very busy.
“We welcome feedback about our services which can be made by directly contacting our Corporate Complaints Department. Any issues are fully investigated before we send a comprehensive response back to the person making the complaint.
“The Corporate Complaints Officer is a central point of contact for service users who wish to make a comment, suggestion, compliment or complaint about any of our services and can be contacted by telephoning 028 3861 4150 or by emailing: email@example.com.”
For more information about making a complaint go to: http://www.southerntrust.hscni.net/contact/1614.htm
Meanwhile, SDLP representative Justin McNulty has slammed the Southern Health and Social Care Trust for their ‘appeal for people to stay away from Accident and Emergency Units with minor ailments’ and has claimed this is a consequence of them closing the Minor Injuries Unit in Armagh City.
Mr McNulty said: “Over recent weeks we have heard pleas from the Southern Trust for people to think twice before going to an Emergency Departments. They are diverting people to alternative services available including Minor Injuries, GP or GP Out of Hours and pharmacies and yet these services are constantly under threat from the very same Southern Trust.’
“We have seen the Southern Trust close the Minor Injuries Unit in Armagh City and now they are now directing people to use Minor Injuries Units.
“GP’s practices and the Out of Hours Services are buckling under serious pressure and the Southern Trust’s response is don’t come to us, their strategy is all wrong, they are withdrawing services back to Craigavon and then tell you not to come near them.”
He added: “Services need to be provided to local communities in the heart of communities. It needs to be properly resourced, properly staffed and then we might see less pressure on our A&E Departments.”