Friday 6 December 2019

'We did not know if daddy was one of those cases' - Family tells of its agony over missed cancer

Wexford General Hospital. Photo: PJ Browne
Wexford General Hospital. Photo: PJ Browne
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

The daughter of one of the patients whose bowel cancer was missed in Wexford General Hospital has spoken of the agony of wondering how different her father's life would be if the disease had been picked up earlier.

Dee Fitzpatrick, whose father Pat is now being treated for cancer, is one of around 12 patients, including a man who has since died of the disease, who underwent a bowel cancer test in the hospital in 2013 and 2014.

However, shockingly, despite undergoing the colonoscopy procedure and being given the all-clear, they were later found to have the disease.

Ms Fitzpatrick, from Wexford, said that wondering how different life would be for her father if the cancer was diagnosed at the time of the first test keeps her awake at night.

"Yesterday and today were very difficult for him," she told RTÉ's 'Drivetime'.

The first revelations on RTÉ earlier this week that as many as 12 people could have been misdiagnosed was "shocking, physically shocking".

She said: "It really unsettled dad."

He was among 600 people asked to go for re-checks after BowelScreen, the free national screening programme for people in their sixties, discovered the first two cases of misdiagnosis at the end of 2014. She said when her father was first diagnosed last year the hospital said it could not be sure if the cancer was missed. It could have been an "interval cancer", which can develop in the two years between screenings.

But following another meeting on Wednesday with the family they were told the hospital is now working on the premise it was misdiagnosed.

"It was a bit shocking when we saw in the media this week that there were 12 missed cases. We did not know if daddy was one of those."

The family was contacted by Wexford General Hospital afterwards and was told doctors and staff were unable to warn families in advance of the details becoming public as they had no prior notice.

She said it was essential the report on how the cases happened be published as soon as possible for all the families involved.

The anxiety of wondering how different life would be for her father if the cancer was found initially is "not a nice place to be in.

"They are the things that can wake you up at night.

"We need to have the report published to give people answers."

It is expected to be the end of next month before the report is complete.

A doctor who was involved in the screenings at the hospital is currently on paid leave.

Patients continue to be referred to Wexford General for colonoscopies.

Irish Independent

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