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I'd have treated lip-op girl if I knew she was private


Martin Corbally

Martin Corbally

Martin Corbally

A LEADING doctor whose two-year-old patient got the wrong operation said he would have carried out the procedure himself, had he known she was a private patient in his care.

Martin Corbally, then a paediatric consultant at Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin, is before a Medical Council hearing.

He described how it was his policy to operate on his own private patients wherever possible.

Yesterday he told a Medical Council fitness-to-practise inquiry: "If I was aware the patient was private I would have done the procedure myself."

Prof Corbally denies all allegations of poor professional performance, including that he failed to communicate properly when delegating the procedure.

He booked an operation for the girl in April 2010, after her parents brought her to his private clinic. But the operation was done by another surgeon -- who performed the wrong procedure on the toddler.

Instead of having the skin inside her upper lip cut, the skin underneath her tongue was sliced instead -- meaning she faced more painful surgery.

Prof Corbally, now chief of staff at the King Hamad University Hospital in Bahrain, said consultants had an "unwritten agreement" with the hospital that they operated on their own private patients.

The hearing was told that there was no description on the Crumlin hospital theatre list to indicate whether the patient was private or public.

But Prof Corbally said that the "normal procedure" was that a consultant was made aware by hospital staff if a private patient was going for surgery.

The surgeon said his "intention" was to operate on patients whenever possible if they see him privately.

Prof Corbally has previously appeared before the Medical Council after a six-year-old boy under his care had the wrong kidney removed by another surgeon at Crumlin Hospital in 2008 -- despite his parents raising concerns.

There were no findings against either surgeon and the inquiry was halted in September 2010.

The latest hearing relates to a little girl known as 'Baby X' who attended his private rooms on February 25, 2010.

The inquiry heard the girl required an operation which would last less than a minute to cut an 'upper labial frenulum' -- the skin between her front teeth and her upper lip.

Instead, a more common procedure called a 'lingual frenulum' or a 'tongue tie release' was carried out on April 30, 2010, by a fourth-year surgical registrar, Mr Farhan Tareen.

The child's mother, Siobhan, complained that she had told staff in the day ward that her daughter was not there for a 'tongue tie' procedure.

However, the surgical team went ahead and carried out the incorrect operation and the girl had to be brought to theatre twice in one day for the correct procedure to be carried out.

In the immediate aftermath, the little girl suffered from drooling and pain, but is now well and in school. Prof Corbally delegated the operation on the two-year-old to Dr Tareen, whom he was satisfied was fully capable, while he carried out another operation.

Prof Corbally, who does not accept the facts amount to poor professional performance, said delegation was an "absolute requirement" in the short-staffed Irish hospital system.

A number of allegations against Dr Tareen were withdrawn by the Medical Council earlier this week.

The inquiry heard Prof Corbally filled out 'tongue tie (upper frenulum)' to book the girl on to the theatre list as the computer system had only one code -- 'tongue tie release' -- for these type of operations.

However, the administrator never added in the additional information -- and 'upper frenulum' never appeared on the theatre list. The computer codes have since been changed.

Prof Corbally pointed out that if the surgical 'check' on the patient in the theatre had been performed properly, it would have been spotted that the word 'upper' had been underlined twice on the consent form after the parents raised concerns.

He said that the concerns raised by the girl's parents were never communicated to him prior to the operation.

The summing of evidence by the legal teams will continue on October 1.

Irish Independent