Cancer misdiagnosis in Wexford General Hospital
Patients who were given the all-clear for bowel cancer have now been diagnosed with the disease. Out of the twelve patients, one patient has since died of the illness.
The issue of misdiagnosis has been highlighted following the recall of 600 patients who had received colonoscopies (which is an invasive investigation of the large bowel). There is a national bowel screening programme for people aged between the ages of 60 and 69 called BowelScreen. On foot of the recall two patients who had a colonoscopy procedure in Wexford General Hospital in 2013 and were subsequently discovered to have cancer in October and November 2014, the recall of over 600 patients occurred.
Hospitals who are given work by BowelScreen (through referrals etc) must be accredited and consultants who carry out the work must agree to have their performance reviewed on a regular and continuous basis. The specialist involved in the colonoscopy procedure was placed on paid leave and is no longer carrying out the procedure.
Conor McLiam whose wife Susie lost her battle with bowel cancer in 2007 (after having to wait 7 months for a colonoscopy) has said:
‘It is essential that hospitals can assure patients about the quality of the procedure.’
He went on to question if the necessary resources were being invested in this crucial area.
Health Minister Leo Varadkar has been briefed about the issue since early 2015 and a spokesman for Minister Varadkar has stated:
“ He is concerned primarily that any cancers may have been missed. He extends his sympathy to the families involved and in particular to the family of the deceased. The minister is also concerned for the length of time the review has taken.”
It is now the onus of the HSE to ensure that quality assurance is improved so that these mistakes cannot and will not be repeated.
Currently, Ireland remains heavily dependent upon temporary radiologists because of the difficulty in filling full time positions.
Statistics show that around 950 women and 1,330 men are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year in Ireland. BowelScreen’s programme is repeated bi-annually.
In a statement issued in recent days, Ireland East Hospital Group have released the following statement:
“ Patients in the recall had been thoroughly investigated and had been provided with full information appropriate follow-up and treatment as needed in a timely manner. The subsequent report and its findings are now in the final stages of preparation”.
They have also claimed that the recall was managed in accordance with the HSE safety incident management policy.
The Irish Cancer Society has stated that currently around 4,000 people are waiting for screening and that anything that undermines public confidence in the bowel screening programme is worrying. The head of the Irish Cancer Society – Donal Buggy stated that the target for screening in 2015 was that 100% of public patients would be seen within a 13-week period, but that target has been revised downwards to 70% and that Wexford General Hospital was one which had been consistently below targets since before 2014.