Thousands of Irish Hospital patients have been paying close attention to the media this week as it has emerged that three locum radiologists had mis-read thousands of x-rays and scans. The three locums have worked in seven different hospitals nationwide, Cavan Monaghan, Kerry General, Bantry General, Our Lady of Lourdes, Connolly Hospital, Wexford General and resulting in the HSE issuing major recall of all the scans and x-rays they were associated with.
At a time when medical negligence is rife in the country, at least patients can be grateful that the problem was addressed in time and the right steps have been put in place for a thorough inspection, of all scans that were carried out by the Radiologists in question.
The locums – who no longer work in Ireland – had been employed by the HSE at, Cavan Monaghan, Kerry General and Bantry General Hospital in Cork.
One of the radiologists who worked in Bantry also went on to work at Our Lady of Lourdes in Drogheda, Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown, Wexford General and Roscommon.
Bantry was the worst affected where 4,388 scans and X-rays examined between May and September 2013 had to be looked at again, 50 patients were recalled and one had a delayed cancer diagnosis.
When it became public knowledge, Irish Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar said he had only been briefed about the more serious mistakes that occurred. Mr Varadkar stated:
“In one of those cases, the person’s diagnosis was missed. It is a real tragedy for us. We need to know exactly what happened,” he said. “The information I have at the moment is quite limited. I’m only getting information about this today for the first time.”
The HSE has refused to comment on the extent of what was missed until the review is complete. A spokesperson said up to 210 Bowel Screening patients and over 120 people who have received diagnostic colonoscopies in the various hospitals had recently been recalled and appointments were being re-scheduled in order to ensure nothing serious was overlooked by the three locums in question.
In legal terms, medical negligence is a breach in the standard of care, which is usually defined as being the use of the same degree of knowledge, skill and ability as an ordinary careful radiologist would exercise under similar circumstances. While there is no denying that it is a testing occupation, such mistakes have serious consequences and may cost patients their lives.
It has also came to light that one of the radiologists at the centre of the recall was not on the specialist register of the Medical Council and should not have been assessing scans as a consultant radiologist in Cavan Monaghan Hospital
The evolving role of competence assurance, including continuous professional development, under the guidance of the Irish Medical Council will play a significant role in the validation of skill maintenance. The requirement that all doctors on the special register of the Irish Medical Council take part in a Professional Competence Scheme, which became a legal requirement from 1st May 2011, should hopefully eliminate the possibility of radiological services being provided by under-qualified or un-certified medical practitioners.
It is extremely difficult, if not impossible for a regular patient to assess a scan and identify what the issues are. Any person, who attends a hospital for a scan or x-ray, is completely reliant on the advices and diagnosis they receive from the doctor. If a patient is given the all clear then he is entitled to take this diagnosis on good authority and not immediately have to second guess the expert he/she is dealing with.
Mistakes like the ones mentioned above are all too common in the Irish Medical circles and some serious proactive steps need to be taken in order to insure they are less frequent in years to come or more patients will suffer at the hand of inexperienced and under-qualified medical practitioners.
– KEITH ROLLS
If you feel that you have been a victim of delayed diagnosis or personal injury due to any hospital negligence, to discuss your case in confidence please telephone 01-5313800 or email Kathrin Coleman for further information.
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