Doctor broke ranks to demand investigation
GP who sounded alarm was branded a 'maverick'
Published 11/03/2010 | 05:00
'If things are wrong, we do something about it'
A FAMILY doctor revealed last night how he broke ranks with colleagues to expose the X-ray crisis in Tallaght Hospital that was threatening his patients.
Local GP Dr Tom O'Dowd -- who is also a professor of general practice at Trinity College, Dublin -- first wrote to the chairman of the board of Tallaght Hospital, barrister Lyndon McCann, in April last year.
He was prompted by reports from patients that up to 20,000 X-rays in Tallaght had not been read by radiologists.
"Patients waited ages to get X-rays and then never got the results," he said.
But Dr O'Dowd, who is also a former member of the hospital board, said he received no reply from Mr McCann.
"We were continuously phoning for results and could not get them," he said, adding that this caused further alarm to his patients.
In June, he made a formal complaint to the patient safety watchdog, the Health Information and Quality Authority.
"I was impressed by the responsible, professional and serious manner in which it went about the matter," Dr O'Dowd said.
His decision to alert the watchdog had personal consequences for the GP, however, as he was branded a maverick by some of his colleagues.
He said many doctors whose patients were also affected by failures in the radiology department had also "complained bitterly" about the situation.
Dr O'Dowd said that, as a GP, he expected a referral for an X-ray for one of his patients to be taken seriously and that an X-ray needed to be signed off by a specialist who had significant experience.
He also pointed out that the Medical Council, the governing body for doctors, was very strict in urging the profession as a whole to ensure that "if we see things are wrong, then we do something about it".
Dr O'Dowd said he feared there were other systemic failures in the hospital.
"This has been going on for years and, like most scandals, they don't just come out of the blue," he added.
"There are a lot of people who have not been courageous in the matter.
"There are a lot of decent, hard-working consultants in Tallaght but there are questions that need to answered. To turn a blind eye is not enough."
Meanwhile, in a statement issued last night, Mr McCann claimed he had never received the letter sent to him by Dr O'Dowd.
He said he only learned yesterday afternoon of the existence of the letter, which was written on April 22 last year.
"The letter was addressed to me at the hospital and has been stamped as received by the chief executive's office, April 27, 2009.
"I had not known of this letter until today (Wednesday)," said Mr McCann.