Sunday 17 December 2017

Doctors missed cancer in patient's eye exam

Patricia McDonagh

A PATIENT with eye cancer was delayed treatment after doctors at a Dublin hospital misdiagnosed her condition.

Medics at the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital missed the carcinoma -- a type of cancer that begins in the skin or in tissue covering body organs.

Fortunately, the patient survived, but the revelation is just one of four cases of misdiagnosis that occurred at the voluntary hospital in 2008.

It comes in the wake of last week's exposure that 3,500 letters from GPs seeking referrals for patients were unopened and 58,000 X-rays were not read properly at Tallaght Hospital.

A Freedom of Information request by the Irish Independent uncovered that in two separate cases, a foreign body in the eye was misdiagnosed as an eye infection by medics at the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital. In another case, they missed a rare eye condition.

To date, nobody has been disciplined for these mistakes or forced to attend a fitness-to-practice committee of inquiry.

Opposition politicians last night insisted that the matter should be investigated by the health watchdog, the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA).

Labour TD Jan O'Sullivan said the number of mistakes was "very serious" and showed the need for increased safety measures.

The latest disclosure relates to six complaints received by the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital in 2008.

"In relation to the four misdiagnoses, two related to failure to diagnose a foreign body in the eye," the documents reveal.

"Patients were misdiagnosed with an infection as no foreign body could be located by the examining doctor in A&E.

"Another related to a patient who presented with early symptoms of an extremely rare eye condition.

"Upon review of the complaint by our medical director, he found that the clinical management of the patient was appropriate when she presented to the A&E department.

"Another related to a patient who was eventually diagnosed with a rare form of carcinoma," the documents state.

"Again, the patient had presented at the hospital in the early stages of the condition."

In a statement, the hospital said no further action was taken in the wake of these incidents.

"None of these cases required further action as defined as any action by way of disciplinary/fitness to practice/clinical sanction," said a spokeswoman.

"A full investigation of each complaint was conducted before a decision was made on whether any of the complaints required such further action.

"No patient died or lost an eye in relation to the complaints in question."

A spokeswoman for the HSE argued that protocols were in place to deal with the errors.

"It is the policy of the HSE not to comment on individual patient care," she said.


"The hospital is required by law to report all adverse clinical incidents to the Clinical Indemnity Scheme, which then reports to the HSE.

"The HSE is satisfied that the appropriate procedures and protocols were adhered to by the hospital when dealing with these medical complaints."

The Department of Health said it was confident that procedures and arrangements were in place to address the concerns raised.

But Labour TD Jan O'Sullivan insisted that further investigation was needed.

"The number of incidents in the space of one year is a serious cause for concern," she said.

"The public needs a safe and transparent health system. I think there should be an independent investigation."

She was joined by Fine Gael TD Dr James Reilly, who said: "This shows the need for an independent patient-safety authority. There should be an investigation to see what went wrong and prevent human error in the future."

Irish Independent

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