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Surgeon blames 'secretarial mistake' for cancer scan result delay

A consultant surgeon has blamed a "secretarial mistake" for his failure to see a test result indicating one of his patients had cancer.

Paul Neary, the head of colorectal surgical services in the Adelaide and Meath Hospital, Tallaght, also rejected a contention put to him during a Medical Council inquiry that he was "making up" evidence about his treatment of the 78-year-old woman, who died the following year.

A fitness-to-practise committee yesterday decided to conclude its inquiry into the care afforded by Mr Neary to the woman, after he gave an undertaking not to repeat the behaviour complained of and to obtain an independent review of the administration systems in his practice.

The committee's decision to exercise its power under section 67 of the Medical Practitioners Act 2007 meant allegations of poor professional performance against Mr Neary were set aside.

The patient, identified only as Mrs D, was seen by Mr Neary on December 17, 2009, at the Hermitage Medical Clinic for incontinence problems.

Among a set of tests arranged by the consultant was an MRI scan, which was carried out on January 13, 2010.

The scan showed Mrs D had a suspicious lump on her ovary. Mr Neary told the inquiry that he did not dispute that the MRI report was delivered to his office but he said he did not see it until March 8, 2010, due to a mistake made by his secretary.

He explained he sees 3,000 patients a year.

He disputed evidence given by radiologist Michelle McNicholas that she had made a number of phone calls to his clinic to alert him to the abnormal test results.

"I have never spoken to Dr McNicholas, up until yesterday I had never seen her."

Mr Neary said on April 9, 2010, he phoned the patient's daughter to inform her about the MRI results.

The inquiry had already heard that, while in London on April 8, Mrs D became unwell.


Her daughter phoned Mr Neary's secretary to get the blood test results from March but was shocked when the consultant phoned her back to tell her there was something suspicious on the MRI.

Dr Neary agreed there was a discrepancy between when he and the patient's daughter said the phone call was made.

Barrister for the CEO of the Medical Council, Patrick Leonard, asked Mr Neary why in a letter he wrote for his solicitors on April 16, 2010, he stated that a phone call to his secretary about the blood test triggered Mrs D's file to be brought to him but that his evidence to the inquiry was quite different.

Mr Neary spoke with Mrs D's local specialist, who told him she had been admitted to hospital in Galway.

She died on June 22, 2011.

Irish Independent