Consultant in cancer misdiagnosis scandal battles to clear name
Published 28/02/2010 | 05:00
THE consultant doctor at the centre of the country's largest cancer misdiagnosis scandal has returned to work and is now embroiled in a major legal battle to clear her name, the Sunday Independent can reveal.
Dr Visa Moodley, a South African consultant radiologist, was suspended with pay from the Midlands Regional Hospital, Portlaoise, in August 2007 after cancer services were suspended and nine women who had been given the all-clear were later found to have breast cancer. Her suspension came on foot of complaints from a number of her colleagues at the hospital.
The Sunday Independent has learned that Dr Moodley has initiated High Court proceedings against the HSE for damages to her reputation, and sources confirmed yesterday that the case is well advanced. She is also taking legal action against a national newspaper for damages. Dr Moodley returned to her post in March 2008.
Three reports into the misdiagnosis found major flaws in the governance and highlighted the absence of adequate systems within the hospital which would minimise the risk of mistake.
One of the reports, drawn up by consultant radiologist Ann O'Doherty, highlighted a number of key deficiencies. They included: a lack of expertise in mammography; an absence of triple assessment (a system of medical checks aimed at minimising misdiagnoses); the use of out of date machinery; and a lack of multi-disciplinary hearings to review cases.
The reports revealed how Dr Moodley was involved in four of the nine cases of misdiagnosis and that there were severe reservations among senior officials about putting her out on leave at the time.
Despite the three reports being heavily critical of systemic failures, none of them contained any individual blame of anyone at the hospital, including senior management, over the scandal.
Dr Moodley declined to comment on the case yesterday when contacted but she has engaged the services of solicitor Donal Spring.
The HSE last night refused to answer questions on the matter but issued a one-line statement. It said: "It is incorrect to state that Dr Moodley won an industrial relations battle or to suggest that any such action cost the HSE €1m."
Appointed to the position at Portlaoise Hospital in 2005, Dr Moodley at the time of her suspension said she had always acted in the best interests of patients and claimed she was placed on leave for being overly cautious and requesting too many tests.
Specialists warned in 2006 that problems with mammography equipment left open a huge potential for litigation.