Tuesday 19 March 2019

Patients face delay of three months for vital scans

Scans at University Hospital Kerry are being reviewed. Picture: Domnick Walsh
Scans at University Hospital Kerry are being reviewed. Picture: Domnick Walsh

Eilish O'Regan and Kevin Doyle

Patients who need an ultrasound to investigate a potentially serious illness are now enduring a delay of at least three months in University Hospital Kerry before getting the vital scan, it emerged yesterday.

The delay comes as it was revealed a review of 46,000 scans overseen by a consultant radiologist in the hospital was ordered after seven patients, including people with cancer, suffered a wrong diagnosis due to a faulty reading of their scan.

The hospital's radiology unit, which has so far been forced to recall 21 patients whose scans were reviewed, is struggling to cope, and some of the work is having to be outsourced privately in a desperate bid to meet patients' needs.

Local GP Dr Gary Stack said yesterday he was concerned at the delay which patients, who are being referred to the hospital's radiology unit, are having to face, and warned it is clearly under pressure.

"The relationship between GPs and radiologists in Kerry hospital is bad enough because we don't particularly know them.

"But now some of the work is having to be outsourced privately and this is a concern because you have no relationship with the radiologist. It must be even worse for the patient's consultant because they need to talk to the radiologist face to face."

Dr Stack, a GP in Killarney, said he had two patients whose cases were reviewed and were given the all-clear.

The consultant radiologist, whose reports have been under review since October, had an excessive workload and was doing more than double the normal rate of scans - reading 150 a day, or 3,000 a month, over 16 months.

A team of external radiologists is to continue reviewing the scans over Christmas.

More than 21,000 have been completed so far, but it is likely to be February before all patients will know if they will be called back for a re-check.

The consultant who was on a locum contract, and was fully trained, made a series of complaints about the running of the unit.

A spokesman for the hospital said the complaints were examined and managed "as per the HSE protocol" but declined to comment further.

Asked who was in charge of the radiology department, he said operationally all staff report to their line managers who "ultimately report to the general manager".

Some of the radiologists in the unit are allowed to treat both public and private patients.

The hospital's helpline will remain open until 10pm again tonight to take calls from anxious patients.

The scans under review relate to patients whose reports were read by the consultant from March 2016 to July 2017, when the first incorrect diagnosis was discovered.

A full analysis of the factors which led to the misdiagnoses and the running of the hospital will not get underway until the review of scans is complete.

Health Minister Simon Harris said the outcome could have implications for other hospitals.

The review will also look at why one radiologist was responsible for so many scans, he said.

"It is interesting that the hospital said this wasn't a resourcing issue. It does seem to be a particular clinician's judgment," he added. The minister denied there was an effort to prevent the errors becoming public knowledge.

Irish Independent

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