Monday 19 February 2018

Doctor’s insistence on attempting to insert tube into patient’s arm amounted to assault, inquiry heard

Dr Omar Mohamed at the inquiry. Photo: Frank McGrath
Dr Omar Mohamed at the inquiry. Photo: Frank McGrath

Liz Farsaci

A doctor’s insistence on attempting to insert a tube into a patient’s arm amounted to assault, a renowned orthopaedic surgeon claimed yesterday at a disciplinary inquiry.

The proceedings into Dr. Omar Hassan Khalafalla Mohamed also heard of an instance in which he allegedly mistook an x-ray image of an ankle for that of an elbow.

Meanwhile, a former colleague of Dr. Hassan’s from the Midlands Regional Hospital Portlaoise told the ongoing inquiry at the Medical Council that he does not recall any negative incidents with Dr. Hassan.

Dr. Hassan faces a number of allegations relating to time he spent working at the Midlands Regional Hospital Portlaoise in 2012, Mayo General Hospital in 2013 and University Hospital Galway in 2014.

Dr. Hassan, whose medical registration is suspended, denies the allegations.

John McElwain, Clinical Professor of Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgery at Trinity College Dublin, argued yesterday that a large number of the allegations against Dr. Hassan constituted Poor Professional Performance and Professional Misconduct.

Last week, a patient – a mother referred to as AK – told the inquiry she was due to have surgery in September 2012 at the Midlands Regional Hospital Portlaoise. In order to provide AK with IV fluid, Dr. Hassan attempted to insert a needle into her arm but was not able to find a vein.

AK said that, after several attempts, she knew the line was not in correctly, so she asked Dr. Hassan to not continue. She said she became distressed because Dr. Hassan continued his attempts to insert the needle even after she said she didn’t want him to do it.

Yesterday, Prof. McElwain said he would consider Dr. Hassan’s continued attempts to cannulate – or insert a needle into – AK after she requested him to stop was ‘a very, very serious matter’.

‘I would categorise that as assault,’ Prof. McElwain said, adding that the allegations in relation to this matter, if proven, amount to poor professional performance and professional misconduct.

‘He caused her distress. He caused her pain,’ Prof. McElwain said.

The inquiry heard earlier this week that while working at University Hospital Galway in early 2014, Dr. Hassan appeared to be unaware of basic protocols regarding cases of suspected child abuse.

More than one of Dr. Hassan’s colleagues expressed concern that he did not appear to be aware of the importance of ruling out non-accidental injuries in children, especially when they present with single long-bone fractures.

Prof. McElwain concurred with other witnesses in saying that medical students are trained in handling suspected cases of child abuse appropriately, and about non-accidental injuries.

The surgeon also told the inquiry that Dr. Hassan’s alleged failure to display knowledge of NAIs, if proven, amounted to poor professional performance.

Previously, Dr. Hassan suggested that the young child at the heart of the allegation was, in fact, a ‘fake’ patient.

Prof McElwain said yesterday that this assertion by Dr. Hassan ‘is ridiculous’.

Consultant Odhran Murray, who worked with Dr. Hassan in Galway, told the inquiry of an instance in which Dr. Hassan mistook an x-ray of an ankle for an image of an elbow during a trauma conference with colleagues.

Doctors were discussing cases, and Dr. Hassan answered a question regarding an x-ray. Mr. Murray said yesterday that an image of an ankle went up. Dr. Hassan thought it was an image of an elbow and proceeded to tell everyone about the ‘elbow’ fracture.

‘There was an audible gasp in the room,’ said Mr. Murray, who said he would expect a medical student – let alone a senior house officer such as Dr. Hassan – to know the difference.

Under cross-examination, Dr. Hassan said to Mr. Murray: ‘I have no clear recollection of that particular incident. I think you had a moment of unclarity.’

Mr. Murray also recalled an instance in which he and Dr. Hassan were scrubbing up in preparation for theatre, so that they would not cause contamination during surgery.

Mr. Murray said he was surprised to see Dr. Hassan re-contaminate his hands by touching a non-sterile area while scrubbing up, as he would expect a medical student to know how to do it properly.

‘I lost all confidence in him when I saw that,’ said Mr. Murray, especially in the context of other issues. ‘This was the straw that broke the camel’s back.’

Dr. Hassan said he totally disagreed with Mr. Murray’s assertion that he touched a non-sterile area while scrubbing up in this instance.

Mr. Murray said Dr. Hassan seemed to have a general air of defiance, and that interacting with female members of staff was particularly difficult for him.

Dr. Ashraf Gadew, a witness for Dr. Hassan, told the inquiry yesterday that he does not recall any negative incidents regarding Dr. Hassan while he was doing on-call night time shifts in July 2012.

Dr. Gadew, a senior surgical registrar in Portlaoise, said that Dr. Hassan’s behaviour was ‘fine’ but that he couldn’t make any comment on his clinical abilities, as he had no clinical discussions with him.

‘I can’t judge that because I can’t recall any discussions between me and you,’ said Dr. Gadew. ‘I can’t judge your clinical ability.’

The inquiry continues.

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