Woman died after nine-month wait for her cancer diagnosis
Published 08/09/2011 | 05:00
A YOUNG woman suffered a nine-month wait for diagnosis at a scandal-plagued hospital -- only to die within a year of a cancerous tumour being detected.
Sharon McEneaney was just 29 years old in October 2007 when she visited the A&E department at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, Co Louth, for the first time with a suspected ruptured cyst on her ovaries.
Nine months later, her concerned family sought political help from former TD and doctor Rory O'Hanlon to get her another outpatients' appointment.
It was only then that a biopsy revealed the cause of her pain was in fact a cancerous tumour, a Medical Council inquiry heard yesterday.
She was sent to Beaumont Hospital for immediate treatment but died in April 2009.
In 2010, her sister Tanya McEneaney -- who yesterday attended the hearing with family members -- wrote a letter of complaint to the Medical Council.
There were 38 allegations of professional misconduct raised at the first day of the Medical Council inquiry against Dr Etop Sampson Akpan.
It emerged during the hearing that the Health Service Executive (HSE) had carried out a review into the circumstances of the young woman's death.
Ms McEneaney's GP from Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan, Dr Shane Corr, yesterday revealed he had always felt "this case was a systemic failure".
On November 7, 2007, Dr Corr expressed his frustration as he referred Ms McEneaney for the third time within weeks with intense abdominal pain to Our Lady of Lourdes hospital.
On that occasion, Dr Akpan -- who has yet to give evidence -- reviewed Ms McEneaney and suggested she return for exploratory surgery. He indicated it should take place within one to two weeks.
However, it was five to six weeks later on December 19 that she was re-admitted for the exploratory surgery.
The surgery on December 20, 2007, revealed a tumour in her abdomen. A surgical review suggested an ultrasound-guided biopsy might be needed to diagnose what the tumour was.
It had only become clear at this stage, after Ms McEneaney mentioned it, that she had previously been diagnosed with neurofibromatosis.
The council heard she had previously attended the hospital in 2004-2005 and was found to have the genetically inherited condition, where nerves and tissues can grow tumours that can be benign.
Ms McEneaney mentioned a 'mass' had been discovered when she returned to Dr Corr on May 13 2008 following further visits to the hospital and he had begun to believe she needed to be "urgently investigated".
The ultrasound-guided biopsy -- suggested as far back as January -- eventually took place on July 14.
Dr Corr immediately rang the hospital's pathology department due to his concern and was given the unofficial result that the tumour was cancerous, and Ms McEneaney began treatment. Dr Corr wrote to the chair of the hospital's medical board outlining his concerns in relation to the case, which the hospital states was never received.
The inquiry is expected to continue for another two days.