HUNDREDS of children and adults who underwent tests for a potentially fatal heart condition are at the centre of a major hospital blunder.
A mistake at the National Centre for Medical Genetics, located in Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin, led to results not being released to the patients for up to two years.
A bundle of test results were only discovered last week and has led to the suspension of an employee, the Irish Independent has learned.
The patients, many of them young children, had undergone tests at the hospital to find out if they carry a gene which leaves them at risk of heart disease.
Some of the people have yet to be told they tested positive. They could be at risk of sudden cardiac death and may need to dramatically change their lifestyle after a positive result.
It is understood the results were filed away and were overlooked as part of a major administrative blunder, which could potentially have serious consequences for those unaware they have the inherited gene.
There were 506 patients in total whose test results were delayed. The tests were carried out between 2011 and November this year, meaning some are understood to have faced delays of more than two years.
Yesterday, 69 patients with abnormal results were in the process of being contacted by hospital doctors, but late last night 54 of these had yet to receive the news.
Another 128 patients, who also tested positive for an abnormal gene, have been given the results. But a letter containing the information was not sent to their doctor. One mother of a young child who had undergone tests at the hospital, and had just been told about the delay in delivering the results, said she was extremely worried. The woman, who asked not to be named, said: "It sounds like these test results were sitting in a box under a table for months".
The hospital said 506 tests for the inherited cardiac disease were carried in total at the centre between February 2011 and November 2013 and these are now the subject of the review.
Crumlin was told of the error last Monday week but several patients, who were left in the dark about their diagnosis, have yet to be told the upsetting news.
The matter only came to light after patients contacted the hospital expressing concern at the delay in getting results.
Doctors were frantically trying to contact people with a positive result yesterday evening, but late last night 54 had yet to be told. These remaining patients are to be phoned by doctors this morning, and are to be offered an appointment with a genetic consultant within one week.
Meanwhile, 128 patients who have been found to have had abnormal results have been personally informed.
But crucially, doctors who referred them for the tests were not sent a letter outlining the information. A spokesman said 10 patients who had the most recent tests are having their results processed "within normal time frames".
Another 256 patients had a normal result and their files are being reviewed to find out if they have been told of their results – 43 of these patients were contacted.
The hospital said the delay in communicating with patients has been identified and a member of staff has been suspended pending a full investigation.
Families or doctors who have concerns can contact a dedicated phone line: 01-4096751/ 01-428 2801 Monday to Friday 9am to 8pm, and Saturday and Sunday 10am to 5pm.
Crumlin Hospital said it deeply regrets the distress that is being caused to patients and their families.