Doctor under investigation after two die in hospital
Two patients died after they had spinal operations performed by a surgeon who is the subject of an investigation, it was revealed yesterday.
The patients of Galway University Hospitals already had serious underlying illness but the surgery is likely to have contributed to their death, according to an independent audit.
The cases of two other patients who survived, but were also operated on by the same surgeon, are a matter of "serious concern".
It follows an examination of 198 operations carried out by the doctor who worked in Galway University Hospitals - which includes Merlin Park - between January 2013 and November 24, 2014.
The orthopaedic surgeon, who was educated in Ireland but originally comes from abroad, resigned his post at the hospital before the audit began and is now believed to be working outside the country.
The hospital's group Saolta released details of the audit - carried out by two retired orthopaedic surgeons - following inquiries by Raidió na Gaeltachta.
A spokeswoman for the group said it has already directly contacted all of the surviving spinal surgery patients or families whose cases were audited and offered them any services that they may require.
"This includes, if necessary, an independent clinical review. The hospital will continue to engage directly with the patients and families concerned. The hospital has also been in contact with patients' GPs."
The Medical Council, which regulates doctors and can hold fitness to practise inquiries, has also been notified of the case. The doctor remains on the medical register here.
The hospital group said the investigation was prompted by its own internal surveillance systems.
The spokeswoman said they would "like to reassure the public that there is no ongoing patient safety concern in relation to the spinal or other orthopaedic services at the hospital".
"Saolta University Health Care Group and Galway University Hospital regrets any distress this process may cause to patients or their families," she said.
"Should other service users have any concerns they can contact helpline number 1800 659 4589 from Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm."
The HSE said the doctor had been working abroad when he was hired by the Galway hospitals. It is understood he also worked in a private hospital in Ireland and in the Middle East.
The hospital group has since overhauled the systems in place to provide more multi-disciplinary support for surgeons who are doing complex cases.
The spokeswoman said there was "an informal process in place previously to allow for consultation and discussion among spinal surgeons however that has now been formalised and supported.
"This allows clinicians the opportunity to discuss complex cases," she said.
"There has also been an increase in supports for spinal surgery."