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Doctor is guilty of poor professional performance over handling of patient

A former president of the Medical Council and the current clinical director of Wexford General Hospital has been found guilty of poor professional performance.

Dr Colm Quigley, a consultant in general medicine and a former president of the Irish Hospital Consultants' Association, had five allegations of poor professional performance proven against him before a fitness-to-practise inquiry.

They related to his handling of a patient, referred to him with what his GP feared was a 'serious underlying condition'.

Despite two appointments with the man over a 15-month period, and enquiries from the man and his wife, Dr Quigley failed to ensure a series of medical tests were carried out. The man, identified as Patient X, went on to die from lung cancer.

However, in delivering the committee's ruling yesterday, chairman Danny O'Hare stressed that it was not alleged that any error on Dr Quigley's part caused the deterioration in the patient's health or his death.

The inquiry heard Patient X had complained to his GP of pain in his ankles and feet, and was first referred to Dr Quigley in August 2009 after blood tests showed him to be suffering from low sodium levels.

Among the allegations proven against Dr Quigley was that he failed to recognise in November 2010 that tests he had planned in August 2009 had not been carried out.

The committee also found Dr Quigley had failed to ensure he had an adequate system in place for tracking patient tests. He was also found guilty of poor professional performance for failing to respond to three letters from Patient X's widow.

His widow, Mrs A, decided to make a complaint against Dr Quigley after he sent an appointment letter to her home following her husband's death, in which he stated: "I trust he is keeping well . . . I would be anxious to keep a watch on him."

Disease

Patient X had separately been diagnosed with peripheral vascular disease and was admitted to hospital in 2011, where his lower left leg was amputated.

When it was noticed that he was not recovering, he was diagnosed with irreversible lung cancer, from which he died on April 16, 2011.

During the hearing, Dr Quigley's counsel, Paul Anthony McDermott, told the inquiry that his client "cannot offer an explanation for why the tests didn't take place".

He argued, however, that while Dr Quigley had made mistakes, these did not constitute poor professional performance.

The fitness-to-practise committee's report and its recommendations on what sanction should be imposed on Dr Quigley remain confidential and will be forwarded to the board of the Medical Council, which will decide what sanction, if any, to impose.

Irish Independent