Sunday 22 April 2018

Hospital admits it lost patients' test results data

Tallaght Hospital: Mislaid back-up results of breath tests. Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin.
Tallaght Hospital: Mislaid back-up results of breath tests. Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin.
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

One of the country's busiest hospitals has lost test results for nearly 100 patients who were investigated for a stomach infection which can lead to potentially serious complications if untreated.

The Irish Independent has learned that Tallaght Hospital in Dublin has mislaid the back-up results of breath tests.

The test is for the H pylori infection which can be the cause of gastritis, an inflammation of the stomach lining.

It is understood the missing test results, which should be on computer, go back a number of years.

A trawl of thousands of results held manually may now be needed.

It is not the first time the hospital has found itself in a similar controversy. In 2009 it was at the centre of an x-ray scandal after it emerged that there was a backlog of over 57,000 scans along with thousands of unprocessed GP referral letters.

Anyone who has the H pylori infection needs eradication therapy, including antibiotics.

Untreated gastritis could leave a patient at risk of a stomach ulcer, or even tumours in the stomach which could be cancerous.

Asked to comment, Dr James Gray, a Tallaght Hospital emergency consultant warned last night it could be the "tip of the iceberg".

"The worry here is that we have no idea how many, if any, of the results were sent out to the GPs. Are there other process failures lurking around?" he said.

Calling for an external review, he said that when "a car manufacturer notes a defective airbag system they recall all relevant cars but also declare it. They don't wait for an exposé.

"Tallaght Hospital has been rocked by a myriad of scandals and seems to just hop from one calamity to the next.

"The public, the patients and the staff need to have confidence in it, and these serious revelations rock the foundations of that confidence."

The hospital said no patient who could have suffered a delayed diagnosis or other complications has come to light.

Clinical staff recently noticed that some stored back-up test results were missing from a computer in its gastrointestinal laboratory.

"Therefore, as part of a quality assurance exercise, the hospital is currently engaging with the relevant GPs to confirm receipt of the original test results," a spokeswoman said.

"At the moment, back-up results from 97 general practice patients can no longer be located on the computer system. These GPs will be contacted over the next few days to ensure receipt of the original result."

The GPs should have got the original test results and informed the patient.

The spokeswoman said the hospital has not been contacted by any GP practices regarding outstanding breath test results.

"There is no reason to believe that GPs have not received their patients' original result," she added.

The hospital said it has recently suffered longer waiting times for the test, due to the illness of two key members of staff.

It recently decided to suspend the service. The hospital has now recruited an additional member of staff.

Irish Independent

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