Wednesday 26 June 2019

Suspension for radiologist whose work at University Hospital Kerry was reviewed following complaints

(stock picture)
(stock picture)

Tim Healy

A temporary consultant radiologist whose work at University Hospital Kerry was subject of review after complaints were made is among three medical practitioners separately temporarily suspended from practising medicine here by order of the president of 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 court heard the Council had 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.

The Council had also decided to apply for an order to suspend Dr Hartigan as it believed that suspension was necessary to protect the public interest.

The Council said the reasons for that included its view Dr Hartigan has 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.

The Council 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 evidence satisfied him 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 lead to serious harm to patients and approximately 30 incidents where her practice was less than the standard required and potentially could have lead to serious patient harm.

A serious incident management team (SIMT) had been 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 18th 2017, without any formal disciplinary process.

She had 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.

The SIMT Look Back Review report was published last week and the Council considered it before a meeting of December 6th last, at which Kerry hospital manager Ferghal Grimes confirmed the report related to Dr Hartigan.

The SIMT report had stated it did not wish to imply any harm was attributable to her, the court heard.

The Council also considered the correspondence from Dr Hartigan.

It said Dr Hartigan was at that meeting and she was told its purpose was not to consider the report but that the Council had concerns she may be unwell arising from interactions between her and its staff.

Dr Hartigan had repeated her objection to being psychiatrically assessed and also said she would like to obtain legal advice.

Also on Monday, the judge made a suspension order, for protection of the public and pending further order,  against Karim El Awad Mohamed,with an address at Blackrock, Stillorgan, Co Dublin, alleged to have registered here to practice medicine under a somewhat different name and different date of birth from details provided to the UK medical authorities. He was suspended there in May 2018 for nine months arising from findings of misconduct against him.

It was alleged, when filling in the annual form to re-register here in 2017 and 2018, he had not declared there had been conditions attached to his UK registration.

A suspension order was separately made, pending further order, against Dr Patricia Sverani Black, whose registered address is Castletown, Co Laois, due to patient safety concerns arising from her alleged prescription practices, including prescribing large amounts of diazepam and dalmane, and over alleged breaches of undertakings concerning her prescription practices.

Those two orders were also sought ex parte and the judge gave his ruling in public on those two suspension order applications also for reasons of public interest.

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