'Harney ignored warnings over safety,' medical inquiry hears
A CONSULTANT facing allegations over the treatment of a mother who died has revealed that the former health minister Mary Harney failed to respond to letters warning that lives were at risk due to the lack of facilities at a small hospital.
Dr Syed Naqvi told a Medical Council fitness-to-practise inquiry how two of his colleagues at the Mid West Regional Hospital in Ennis, Co Clare, had penned strongly worded letters in 2005 to Ms Harney highlighting their concerns.
Mr Naqvi, who faces 11 allegations in relation to the treatment of the late mother-of-13 Tina Sherlock (39), said the consultants had repeatedly warned that "patients' lives were being put at risk".
The letters starkly highlighted a variety of concerns at Ennis, including consultancy staff levels dropping below safety requirements, and they called for the "immediate provision" for a CT scanner to help doctors diagnose ailments.
However, the consultants received no response from Ms Harney or the HSE and three years later, when Mrs Sherlock attended the hospital, there was still no CT scanning facility.
Among the allegations faced by Mr Naqvi are that he failed to send Mrs Sherlock to the Mid-Western Regional Hospital, Dooradoyle, Limerick, for a CT scan after problems arose following an operation.
The inquiry heard that a CT scan might have helped to show that the contents of her bowel were in fact leaking into her abdomen.
Mr Naqvi argued that a CT scan would take possibly a day to organise and that Mrs Sherlock would be unmonitored during the time. However, he stated if there had been a CT scanner in Ennis he would have had one carried out.
In the hard-hitting letters, consultants described it as "madness" for critically ill patients to be transported to Limerick for the CT scan.
The letters argued that for €300,000 per annum the service could be put in place at Ennis.
The inquiry heard that the consultants received no response from either Ms Harney or the HSE.
A probe by the watchdog HIQA later found Ennis to be unsafe for acute emergency care. The A&E unit was closed in 2009 and Mr Naqvi was transferred to Limerick.
Mrs Sherlock, from Childers Road, Ennis, Co Clare, who was in her 14th pregnancy, lost her baby on July 15, 2008, and died herself five months later, following three operations in November and December at the Ennis hospital.
She had presented with pains in her right side while 17 weeks pregnant on June 22, 2008, but was ultimately only correctly diagnosed with appendicitis almost five months later, in November.
The Medical Council's expert witness, UK consultant Anthony Peel, argued that Mrs Sherlock should have been transferred to the larger Mid-Western Regional Hospital in Limerick -- which had access to a CT scanner and a fully equipped intensive-care unit -- prior to the third and final operation on December 8, 2008.
She was transferred after the operation and died two days later from multi-organ failure due to sepsis.
Asked if he was guilty of poor professional performance, Mr Naqvi replied: "Of course not."
The inquiry resumes on October 26.