HSE urged not to drag cancer victims to court
The HSE has been urged to agree to early mediation talks for terminally or seriously ill patients caught up in the X-ray and scan failures in University Hospital Kerry.
Padraig O'Connell, a Killarney solicitor who is representing a number of victims, said they had been treated very badly by health authorities.
He was speaking after a report revealed that a review of 46,234 diagnostic procedures overseen by a locum consultant in the hospital found 11 patients who were wrongly given the all-clear suffered a delayed diagnosis of cancer.
Four of the patients have now died and others are seriously ill.
At least three actions have been taken by the patients but Mr O'Connell said it would be cruel for the HSE to drag them through the courts, particularly those who were terminally ill.
"We need the HSE to sit down in private and mediate with us. The matter must be resolved without them enduring costly High Court proceedings," he said.
"We are not going to accept it and I am determined not to let this drag on."
One of his clients is terminally ill with cancer.
He said patients and their families had so far been treated "very shabbily" by the hospital.
"Communication has been limited. Words are meaningless without action.
"They have already endured too much pain and suffering. The HSE can shake hands or we can fight," he added.
The locum radiologist who was employed at the hospital for 16 months did a large volume of work, according to the report on the review.
It said it did not wish to imply the harm done was exclusively attributable to the individual radiologist and there are "many factors which influence an individual's performance". The doctor has since been referred to the Medical Council.
The report has a series of recommendations and an external review of the management of the hospital's radiology department.
Meanwhile, Dr Gary Stack, a Killarney GP who previously raised concerns about the radiology department in the hospital, said he was among several doctors who received a large bundle of letters about their patients who were part of the review.
Although the review found the errors affected mostly on the health of the 11 cancer patients, there were also a substantial rate of unreported clinically significant findings in relation to 1,300 scans in all.
Dr Stack said the letters stated the review team did not believe the errors found were of significance but they could be shared with patients.
He said none of his patients were adversely affected.
However, he criticised the failure to furnish GPs with a copy of the review report and said it was essential there was better communication.
"There also needs to be a clinical lead appointed to each department in the hospital to liaise with GPs, "he added.
A spokesperson for the South and South West Hospital Group declined to comment further yesterday. It has apologised unreservedly to patients and families who have been affected by the review.