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Obstetrician found guilty of professional misconduct

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Dr Patrick (Gerry) Rafferty

Dr Patrick (Gerry) Rafferty

Dr Patrick (Gerry) Rafferty

A WELL-known consultant obstetrician, who failed to send a patient with a potentially fatal ectopic pregnancy for treatment, has been found guilty of professional misconduct.

Dr Patrick (Gerry) Rafferty, of Mount Carmel Private Hospital in Rathgar, south Dublin, was found guilty of five separate allegations of professional misconduct by a Medical Council inquiry in relation to his treatment of two women. Five allegations were not proven.

Delivering its ruling, the inquiry also raised concerns about surgeries Dr Rafferty carried out at Mount Carmel without the aid of another surgeon or a surgical nurse.

Chairman Danny O'Hare said the committee wanted to record its concern about "the attendant danger to patient safety" if such operations were still being carried out.

He said if the practice were continuing in Mount Carmel, "then any surgeon observing that protocol could be putting patients in danger".

A spokesman for the hospital said last night the normal protocol for each procedure was to have a "consultant surgeon, an anaesthetist, four trained theatre nurses and a minimum of one theatre assistant" in attendance.

One of the women had to be rushed to hospital for emergency surgery to remove her fallopian tube. She made a complaint against him "so the same thing never happens to another woman".

The other patient told of how she permanently lost the use of one of her kidneys following a hysterectomy carried out by Dr Rafferty. He denied all but one of the allegations.

The fitness to practise committee found Dr Rafferty's evidence to be "inconsistent and lacking in credibility in significant respects".

During the hearing Michelle Howe told how he assured her the pregnancy was 'non-continuing' but not ectopic. But less than 24 hours afterwards her husband had to rush her to hospital where she underwent an emergency salpingectomy to remove a section of her fallopian tube.

An ectopic pregnancy is where an embryo develops outside of the womb and if left untreated can be fatal to the mother.

The following day Dr Rafferty "came in and sat down" and said "so it was an ectopic pregnancy", the inquiry heard.

According to Mrs Howe he then told her that "the outcome would have been the same".

"I told him I wouldn't have had to have emergency surgery and a blood transfusion. I accepted that I had to have the tube removed but my life had been put at risk," she told the hearing.

The inquiry ruled that four allegations in relation to Dr Rafferty's treatment of Mrs Howe were proven as to fact and constituted professional misconduct.

These included that he failed to admit his patient for a laparoscopy and that he failed to recognise the significance of test results, which showed her pregnancy was ectopic.

Mrs Howe and her husband attended the hearing yesterday but declined to comment.

The inquiry committee found that one allegation in relation to Dr Rafferty's other patient, Cathy Coyle, was proven as to fact and constituted professional misconduct.

This was that he failed to refer her to a urologist following tests which showed her kidney was not functioning properly.

The tests were carried out after a hysterectomy Dr Rafferty performed on Mrs Coyle in July 2007, during which she sustained damage to her ureter – a tube that links the kidneys to the bladder.

The following year Mrs Coyle attended a urologist at St James's hospital. There it was discovered that one of her kidneys had permanently ceased functioning.

The fitness to practise commitee's decision will now be forwarded to the board of the Medical Council which will decide on what sanction to impose on Dr Rafferty.

Irish Independent