The Cork woman, who has a medical card, was in agony and unable to sleep at night. Her GP had prescribed pain killers and was going to refer her for a scan.
Christine was put on a long waiting list of between 18 and 24 months.
“I didn’t know any better; I thought I’d just have to wait,” she said.
Her family were unhappy that she had to wait so long in so much pain and paid €200 to have the MRI scan done privately. Christine got an appointment for the following Wednesday.
“She was in fierce pain. She couldn’t sleep so she was walking the floors at night,” Christine’s daughter, Tina, said on RTÉ radio yesterday.
The scan showed there was a tumour on Christine’s spine and it was decided to have it surgically removed as soon as possible.
“I would have been completely paralysed within a few months — for the sake of €200. I would not have known,” said Christine, who had the operation to remove the tumour a week ago.
Christine is still feeling sore and weak following the surgery. She is also furious that someone like her with a medical card had to pay for a life-saving scan.
“Medical card holders should be treated the same as private,” she said.
Christine was operated on within two weeks of getting the result of the scan and is awaiting the results of the operation. All the indications are that the tumour is benign.
The family know that Christine’s experience is not an isolated incident. “It’s ridiculous to put a price on someone’s health and their life like that,” said Tina.
Christine’s GP, Nick Flynn, the medical director of Union Quay Medical Centre in Cork said her case was quite typical.
Because public patients could not be directly referred for an MRI scan, they had to be referred to the already overburdened outpatient departments that had waiting times of 18 months and more.
HSE South chief executive Gerard O’Callaghan said Cork University Hospital did not accept referrals from GPs but was no different to other hospitals in the region.
He said it was up to GPs to raise the level of urgency about their patients with the consultant if they felt a patient should be seen sooner.
The South South-West Hospital Group said: “In June 2015, there were 3,000 patients at CUH waiting on MRI scans. Following an internal waiting list initiative, this waiting list has since been cleared. There is currently no waiting list for a routine MRI at CUH. If the referring consultant communicates that a patient needs an MRI within a three- week period, this is facilitated within that time frame.”