Sunday 21 January 2018

Woman's life 'changed completely' after vaginal hysterectomy, gynaecologist tells inquiry

Judge's gavel
Judge's gavel

Sam Griffin

An obstetrician gynaecologist says a woman’s life “was changed completely” after a vaginal hysterectomy by a doctor who faces allegations of poor professional performance.

The allegations relate to Peter Van Geene and rise from vaginal hysterectomies performed by him on four women at the Aut Even private hospital in Co Kilkenny between April 2009 and October 2011.

In the second day of evidence, the Medical Council fitness to practice inquiry heard evidence from Prof Ray O’Sullivan in relation to two patients who have made the allegations - Helen Cruise who has waived her right to anonymity, and another patient known as Patient A.

Prof O’Sullivan is a consultant gynaecologist and also served as clinical director at St Luke’s Hospital in Co Kilkenny and was a colleague of Mr Van Geene for a time.

He told the inquiry committee he wrote to the Medical Council in relation to Ms Cruise, and Patient A, who gave evidence yesterday, with concerns he had following procedures undertaken by Mr Van Geene.

Prof O’Sullivan said it was “unusual to have a number of patients” present themselves following this type of procedure by the same clinician.

He said Ms Cruise had been seen at St Luke’s, prior to the procedure and that she had a “major problem” with incontinence and was suffering with a prolapse on the front wall of vagina and bladder problems.

She was scheduled to have the prolapse repaired and a hysterectomy at St Luke’s Hospital.

However through the Treatment Purchase Fund the patient was taken off the public waiting list at St Luke’s and received the procedure instead in the Aut Even hospital in August 2011.

Prof O’Sullivan said a problem with the fund was that his patients often have their procedures elsewhere and he would not see them again until after “and we wind up trying to fix them”, he said.

Prof O’Sullivan said he did not see Ms Cruise again until after her surgery when she presented at the St Luke’s coronary care unit suffering with infections and blood loss. She also had abdominal pain.

He added that the patient’s life had been “completely changed” by what happened and “certainly she’s no better and possibly worse” after the procedures.

“She has gained absolutely nothing”, he added under questioning.

Under questioning by the committee, Prof O’Sullivan said it was “unusual” that post-operative bleeding would occur following a procedure like this one. 

The committee also heard evidence from Prof Des Winter who saw Patient A after her hysterectomy.

He said the patient told him a fistula, or hole between the vagina and the bowel, that had developed was because of the surgery

However Prof Winter said that while he took the patient on her word, there was nothing he saw which proved the fistula was caused by the hysterectomy.

“A temporal relationship doesn’t imply a smoking gun,” he said.

The inquiry is continuing with Ms Cruise due to give evidence later today.

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