Friday 20 September 2019

Radiologist is suspended by High Court on fears about her mental health

Medical Council worried impaired judgment posed a risk to patients

Order: High Court president Mr Justice Peter Kelly. Photo: Damien Eagers
Order: High Court president Mr Justice Peter Kelly. Photo: Damien Eagers

Tim Healy

A temporary consultant radiologist whose work at University Hospital Kerry was the subject of a review after complaints were made has been temporarily suspended from practising medicine here by the High Court.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly said he was satisfied it was necessary, on public interest grounds, to grant the Medical Council's ex parte application (one side only represented) for the order against Dr Clare Hartigan, with an address at Ballinwear, Nenagh, Co Tipperary, who had worked at the Kerry hospital between March 2016 and October 2017.

The council decided last week, following a meeting attended by Dr Hartigan, to make a complaint to the Preliminary Proceedings Committee on grounds of a relevant medical disability under the Medical Practitioners Act 2007.

It had also decided to apply for an order to suspend Dr Hartigan as it believed this was necessary to protect the public interest.

The council said the reasons for that included its view Dr Hartigan had a lack of insight into her mental health issues and had failed to engage with the council and refused an assessment by an independent psychiatrist.

It was concerned about her health and welfare, that she had impaired judgment and there was a risk to patients if she continues to work without appropriate assessment.

The judge said the council was "rightly concerned" about Dr Hartigan's lack of insight into her current condition and about her ability to make judgments.

He noted the manager of the Kerry hospital had complained in October 2017, alleging Dr Hartigan had failed to meet the standards of competence that could reasonably be expected of a consultant radiologist in the performance, carrying out and reporting of radiological examinations.

The complaint alleged there were three known serious reportable events where the diagnostic error had led to serious harm to patients and about 30 incidents where her practice was less than the standard required and potentially could have harmed a patient.

A serious incident management team (SIMT) was established and a decision was made to review all radiological imagery performed and reported on by Dr Hartigan, who resigned her post at the hospital effective from October 18, 2017, without any formal disciplinary process.

She disputed the complaints and also referred to the average workload of 75,000 per year and her having completed 37,000 examinations in one year, almost half of the total workload when there were five radiologists.

A report by the SIMT said it did not wish to imply any harm was attributable to her, the court heard.

Irish Independent

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