Woman died of ‘pneumonia’ after GP diagnosed gastric flu

Medical Council told of difficulty in getting test results - particularly on a Saturday

A doctor who diagnosed a woman with gastric flu a day before she died of probable pneumonia did not fall short of the standards that could reasonably be expected of a general practitioner, a Medical Council fitness to practice inquiry has heard. Photograph: David Sleator.

A doctor who diagnosed a woman with gastric flu a day before she died of probable pneumonia did not fall short of the standards that could reasonably be expected of a general practitioner, a Medical Council fitness to practice inquiry has heard. Photograph: David Sleator.

Mon, Feb 17, 2014, 14:03

Tim O’Brien

A doctor who diagnosed a woman with gastric flu a day before she died of probable pneumonia did not fall short of the standards that could reasonably be expected of a general practitioner, a Medical Council fitness to practice inquiry has heard.

Vicki Core (20) died in June 2007 from what is believed to have been community acquired bronchial pneumonia, within a day of being seen by her general practitioner.

Expert witness Dr Stephen Murphy, of the Park Clinic, Cabinteely, Co Dublin, said that in his opinion Ms Core’s GP - referred to only as “Dr A”- did not fall short and certainly did not fall seriously short” of the standards required of a general practitioner.

The inquiry has previously heard Ms Core, a hairdresser, had been sent home from work in a taxi on June 29th, 2007, as she was feeling unwell.

On the following day she attended Dr A in her night clothes accompanied by her father. The committee heard Ms Core had been having difficulty breathing and was complaining of palpitations.

Her father, Thomas Core, gave evidence that he had to help her in and out of the doctor’s surgery and that she had been lying on the floor of the waiting room.

The inquiry heard Ms Core had been diagnosed with gastric flu and prescribed Motilium, a drug to suppress nausea and vomiting. The following day Ms Core collapsed at home and was taken by ambulance to Tallaght Hospital where she died.

Dr Murphy told the inquiry that Dr A would have been limited in the number of blood tests he could have carried out, when Ms Core attended with her father on the Saturday. He said “there are very few investigations that a general practitioner can order on an urgent basis, and virtually none on a Saturday”.

Dr Murphy said he understood Dr A had carried out a “relatively normal” investigation. When it was put to him that Ms Core’s father had given evidence that his daughter remained seated throughout the examination, Dr Murphy said it is normally possible to conduct a chest examination when the patient is seated.

While he said a seated position did not allow for a complete examination of the abdomen, he said he believed “there appeared to be no evidence on that Saturday morning of the catastrophic events that took place the following day”.

He said there would have been little Dr A “could effectively do with arranging further investigations of his own bat”.

Barrister Neasa Bird, appearing on behalf of the chief executive of the Medical Council asked Dr Murphy if it was not the case that the examination of the parent was a “sub-optimal examination”.

Dr Murphy said here were a lot of “ifs and variables” in the proposition but if the patient’s abdomen was examined when she was seated, this would be less then complete.

The hearing is continuing.