Doctor ignored cancer victim's file for months, hearing is told
Published 10/09/2011 | 05:00
A DISPUTE has arisen as to whether the medical chart of a patient who later died of cancer was left lying in her consultant's tray for three months before he looked at it.
Sharon McEneaney (31), from Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan, suffered continuous abdominal pain for a nine-month period while receiving treatment at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, Co Louth, before a crucial biopsy was carried out, which revealed a tumour in her abdomen was malignant.
The creche manager died eight months later in April 2009.
The consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist who treated her, Dr Etop Sampson Akpan, is before a Medical Council fitness-to-practise committee facing 38 allegations of professional misconduct following a complaint by Ms McEneaney's younger sister, Tanya.
Ms McEneaney was admitted to the hospital in October 2007 with abdominal pain but her cancer was not discovered until July 2008.
She had previously been treated at the hospital for neurofibromatosis, a genetically inherited condition that can lead nerve tissues to grow tumours.
The hearing heard how Ms McEneaney underwent exploratory laparoscopic surgery at the hospital on December 20, 2007, at which point a tumour was found.
She was then to undergo a CT scan in a matter of days to provide guidance as to whether it would be safe to conduct a biopsy on this tumour, but this did not occur until January 24.
The follow-up biopsy, which later revealed the malignancy, was not carried out until six months later on July 14 after an intervention by Ms McEneaney's local GP Dr Shane Corr and former TD Dr Rory O'Hanlon.
Giving evidence yesterday, Dr Corr's secretary, Nora Landers, claimed she had called Mr Akpan's secretary numerous times between February and June in 2008 in a bid to advance Ms McEneaney's case.
She said she was "horrified" to be told by Dr Akpan's secretary, Karen Murray, that Ms McEneaney's chart had been lying in the consultant's tray for three months and he had not come to look at it.
Ms Landers also claimed the secretary said she had personally written a note on it saying she did not know "what to do about this patient".
Giving evidence, Ms Murray disputed this, saying she did not fully recollect the conversation she had with Ms Landers, adding that, to her knowledge, the chart was lying in the consultant's tray for just two to three weeks.
Earlier, consultant radiologist at the Drogheda hospital, Dr John Hanson (41) from Malahide, Co Dublin, told the hearing he was "absolutely flummoxed" as to why a CT scan he had ordered for Ms McEneaney in December 2007 was not carried out until late January 2008.
He said three different phone numbers had been taken from the patient to ensure the scan was carried out; however, it was unclear whether she had ever been contacted for an appointment, or if she had been unable to turn up for a scheduled appointment.
Eileen Barrington, counsel for Dr Akpan, who has yet to give evidence, said her client would state when Ms McEneaney returned for an outpatients' department appointment with him on February 13, 2008, he had tried to contact Dr Hanson to discuss what to do next, but could not reach him.
Dr Hanson said it "angered him" to hear this claim as he was at the hospital that day and had his mobile phone with him at all times.
He said he had not received any calls from Mr Akpan or his secretary that day.
Mr Akpan then claimed to have left a written note attached to Ms McEneaney's file for his registrar, Dr Rukhsana Majeed, to organise a CT-guided biopsy to be carried out on her tumour in his absence.
However, Dr Majeed told the hearing she had no recollection of seeing any such note.
Dr Hanson said he was not contacted by Dr Majeed about Ms McEneaney's care and the next time he heard about the patient was when he was contacted to carry out a biopsy on her tumour on July 14.
"I have no idea what happened with this patient between the time the scan was carried out in January to the point when the biopsy was ultimately done in July," he said.
The inquiry was adjourned yesterday. The hearing will resume on December 19.