Thursday 23 February 2017

Surgeon sues hospital over HIV

Tim Healy

A SURGEON who claims he contracted HIV after being pricked by a needle is seeking High Court damages.

The surgeon, who cannot be named for legal reasons, claims that after the infection was discovered he was immediately prevented from carrying out any further operations.

He claims this happened shortly before he was about to be appointed a consultant.

His claim is against his former hospital, the Minister for Health and Children, and the Attorney General.

He is claiming damages for breach of duty of care, failure to provide a safe place of work and breach of contract. He is also arguing there was an absence of mandatory screening for HIV in the hospital.

On the second day of the hearing yesterday, the matter was adjourned until April following legal argument about new evidence from the defendants. The court heard it had not been possible to identify the source of the infection because the surgeon had operated on more than 100 patients over a three-month period prior to the time he was diagnosed.

He told the court a "look-back committee" examined 11 cases going back over that period but he himself had identified 69 cases where he used wires or other sharp instruments and where open wounds were involved. And needle-stick injuries occurred as frequently as once a week, he said.

Under cross-examination from counsel for the hospital, the surgeon could not recollect any specific incident which might have caused his infection.

"I just knew I had sustained numerous needle-stick injuries and unfortunately one of them got me."

He told the court he had not reported the injuries because, if he did, there was a suggestion of exposure and he would have been removed from operating for a period of time.

He said he wanted to get as much experience as he could and if he was not operating "the load fell on my colleagues". Earlier the court heard the surgeon first believed something was wrong on his return from holiday when he became unwell with a flu-like illness. And following blood tests, he received the HIV diagnosis.

"I honestly did not expect what he told me. My life stopped that day," he said.

Irish Independent

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