Friday 24 November 2017

Surgeon blames hospital staff error for girl getting wrong op

Professor Martin Corbally
Professor Martin Corbally
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

A MISTAKE by hospital administration staff triggered a "chain of errors" which led to a two-year-old patient undergoing the wrong operation, lawyers for a leading doctor have argued.

Professor Martin Corbally, then a paediatric consultant at Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin, Dublin, will learn the decision of the Medical Council's fitness-to-practise committee today.

He faces a number of allegations of poor professional performance after the incorrect procedure was performed on his private patient by a fourth-year surgical registrar, to whom he delegated the operation, on April 30, 2010.

The girl had the skin underneath her tongue sliced instead of having the skin inside her upper lip cut -- meaning she faced more painful surgery.

During three days of evidence, Prof Corbally said if he had been aware the little girl was his private patient then he would have performed the procedure himself.

Prof Corbally 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.

Prof Corbally's legal team said yesterday he had admitted incorrectly describing the operation in the girl's outpatient medical records and it was a "slip of the pen".

However, Eileen Barrington, summing up the evidence on behalf of Prof Corbally, argued that it would be "completely inappropriate" to say a "slip" of that nature in the outpatient notes equalled poor professional performance.

She pointed out that an expert witness for the Medical Council had stated this mistake began a chain of errors that led to the incorrect operation.

Instead, she argued the "chain of errors" was triggered when the girl was admitted to hospital and the admissions card was not fully transcribed by administration staff into the system, resulting in the operation appearing incorrectly on the theatre list "exclusively" as tongue tie.


Ms Barrington argued that the "systems weren't operating correctly" as the mother had alerted staff that her daughter was listed for the wrong operation but the information was not properly communicated along the line to the theatre operating team.

Prof Corbally listened in to the summing up by the legal teams via video link from Bahrain, where he is now chief of staff at the King Hamad University Hospital.

JP McDowell, for the chief executive of the Medical Council, said the delegation of the operation took place in a theatre corridor and the operating surgeon was asked to do the procedure without having any "hand, act or part" in the case and Prof Corbally had not seen the patient on the day.

He said it was up to the committee to infer in those circumstances was that an adequate communication.

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

Irish Independent

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