Thursday 22 February 2018

New mother suffering potential fatal inflammation of her uterus was misdiagnosed by GP, inquiry hears

Alison and Karl Hickey. Photo:
Alison and Karl Hickey. Photo:
Alison and Karl Hickey
Dr. Saleem Sharif
Dr. Saleem Sharif leaves the hearing.

Liz Farsaci

A new mother suffering from a potentially fatal inflammation of her uterus was misdiagnosed by a local GP, resulting in her being rushed to hospital the following day, an inquiry heard today.

Dr Saleem Sharif, 57, from Ballyphehane, Cork, failed to carry out an appropriate examination of Alison Hunter Hickey, or arrange for relevant investigations when Ms Hickey visited him at the GP Now Clinic in Sandyford, Dublin 18 in October 2014, where he was working as a locum GP.

Ms Hickey, 47, gave birth to twin boys in October 2014 by caesarean section, a disciplinary hearing at the Medical Council in Dublin heard today. Less than three weeks later, on 28 October 2014, Ms Hunter became unwell, experiencing flu-like symptoms, shivering, a high temperature, abdominal pain and odorous discharge.

Ms Hickey attended the GP Now Clinic in Sandyford, where she explained her symptoms to Dr Sharif. According to the new mother, Dr Sharif conducted no physical examination, nor did he ordered any tests or take a complete medical history

Dr. Saleem Sharif leaves the hearing.
Dr. Saleem Sharif leaves the hearing.

Instead, he asked her only two questions – one regarding her discharge, and also whether she was suffering from a sore throat.

“He said it was probably a urinary tract infection, and asked was I allergic to penicillin. I said no. That was it. It was a very short consultation,” Ms Hickey told the inquiry today.

“There were very few questions asked. There was very little interaction. When I got back in the car, my sister-in-law actually said, ‘That was very quick’.”

But the following day, Ms Hickey’s symptoms grew worse. “I woke up at 1.00am feeling absolutely dreadful,” Ms Hickey said. “I was having spasms. I wasn’t able to talk.”

An ambulance was called and she was rushed to the Rotunda hospital. There she was diagnosed with endometritis, or an inflammation of the uterine lining. If left untreated, endometritis can lead to sepsis and organ failure.

The inquiry heard that endometritis is the most likely cause of infection in post-partum women, especially for those who have given birth by caesarean section.

Ms Hickey made a full recovery, and was discharged from hospital on 1 November 2014.

Following the incident, Ms Hickey’s husband, Karl Hickey, made a complaint to the GP Now Clinic. Unsatisfied with the response he received, Mr Hickey then complained to the Medical Council.

Today, Dr Sharif, through his legal counsel, admitted that he failed to take an adequate medical history, failed to carry out any appropriate examination and failed to arrange for initial relevant investigations when Ms Hickey visited him on 28 October 2014. He also admitted that he failed to arrange for a follow-up appointment with her.

During her evidence today, expert witness Dr Catherine Wann said, “These were serious failings because when the potential for sepsis exists, it is critical to do the relevant examinations and initiate investigations.”

Dr Wann, from the Nobber Medical Practice in Co Meath, added that early diagnosis of sepsis is critical to its treatment.

Dr Sharif originally trained in Pakistan, where he qualified as a doctor in 1991. He has been working as a GP in Ireland since 2005.

Although it was not mentioned at the inquiry today, Dr Sharif was previously the subject of a separate fitness to practice inquiry, at the Medical Council. In 2011, the GP was found guilty of poor professional performance in relation to a Cork-based patient with a history of cardiac problems, who had collapsed at home.

The inquiry continues today.

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