Patient sent home even though he needed emergency surgery
Published 12/03/2010 | 05:00
DELAYS in examining X-rays are occurring in other hospitals, with some patients forced to seek private treatment in order to avoid delays.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) last night refused to answer a series of questions about delays in other hospitals around the country.
It would only point to a review which is now underway by the HSE's Serious Untoward Incident Unit (SUI).
The HSE said it is compiling information "in relation to radiology reporting", but it could not give a timeframe for its publication.
However, the Irish Independent has learned the problems at Tallaght Hospital are not unique.
One father-of-three who went to Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown in May 2007 with serious pain underwent an X-ray and was sent home with painkillers and a diagnosis of constipation.
However his anxious daughters -- who are both nurses -- realised something serious was wrong and brought him to a private clinic in Galway.
He had an X-ray and the following day underwent emergency surgery.
He was found to have colorectal cancer as well as peritonitis, a serious disorder caused by the inflammation of a membrane that lines the abdominal cavity.
"He had a lot of history including significant weight loss and bleeding from the bowel," said his daughter last night.
"As nurses we knew that something serious was wrong but he was told that he was constipated and was sent home.
"We brought him to Galway, they did a scan, saw something and he ended up in emergency surgery the following day."
His condition was so serious the consultant warned he had just five weeks to live.
But the 75-year-old from south Dublin is continuing to fight the cancer.
"If we'd stayed in Dublin he probably would have died," said his daughter.
"The X-ray was only read on the day he was undergoing surgery in Galway. It was finally read by the consultant but I won't think we would have even heard from them. Nothing was sent to my father's GP afterwards."
She sent a formal letter of complaint to the hospital in October 2008 but did not receive a report until December 2009.
The hospital apologised, but the doctor who treated him said she was happy with the treatment the pensioner had received at the hospital.
However, his daughter pointed out that the hospital admitted in the report that they had had difficulties in locating his files, and later the X-ray reports.
She was told by one of the women dealing with the complaint that she had gone into the consultant's office to look for the records because "you never know what you'd find in there".
The report also admitted many of his notes, which had been scanned into a computer, were illegible, and the original notes could not be found.
They conceded that this was because the software which had been installed in 1999 was now outdated.
There was also no system to store the X-rays electronically which they admitted is an "existing risk". As a result his chest and abdominal X-ray became separated and there was a delay in locating the abdominal X-ray. It was this X-ray which would have showed the presence of cancer. A spokeswoman for the hospital declined to comment last night, saying they don't comment on individual cases.
The patient's daughter said she fears that if her father had remained in the public health system that he could have died in the casualty department waiting to see a doctor.
"He was in a huge amount of pain and was very ill. I just feel if he went to casualty and waited there, and then waited for how long for theatre, I can't say for sure what could have happened.
"You can be guaranteed that his wasn't the only report that wasn't read, it just got lost in the system.
"It was eventually read by a consultant but I don't think we'd ever have heard from them again."