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Monday 20 November 2017

Traumatised women face extra examination

Professor Arnold Hill (left) arrives at Midlands Regional Hospital in Portlaoise at the weekend to re-examine tests. He will carry out a second clinic tomorrow
Professor Arnold Hill (left) arrives at Midlands Regional Hospital in Portlaoise at the weekend to re-examine tests. He will carry out a second clinic tomorrow

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

A number of additional women who underwent initial breast cancer tests at Portlaoise Hospital will be told by the Health Service Executive (HSE) today they must go for further examinations.

A HSE spokeswoman said all of the original 97 women have been contacted , but the executive must now contact others from a batch of 107 ultrasounds after anomalies emerged.

She refused to say how many of either group will have to go for additional tests, or whether any have tested positive for breast cancer.

Yesterday, a number of women from Portlaoise Hospital travelled to Dublin to attend a special clinic in Beaumont Hospital to find out if their cancer had been missed.

They were among a group of 82 former patients who received the grim news on Friday that they should attend a clinic in a nearby cancer support centre the next day for examination by surgeons.

A spokesperson for Portlaoise Hospital last night refused to say how many of the 82 women who attended the surgeons on Saturday had to be referred for more scans, including mammograms and ultrasound tests.

Beaumont Hospital confirmed that a consultant radiologist, breast cancer nurse and other staff yesterday volunteered to carry out screening on the anxious women who have not yet been given the all clear.

The ordeal will continue for a number of other patients who are also due to attend either Beaumont or St Vincent's today for the tests before finding out if they are free of cancer.

They are among a group of 97 women who the HSE have been trying to contact since Friday. Some of the group were unable to make the hastily convened clinic at the Cuisle Centre in Portlaoise on Saturday.

A spokesperson said she believed all of that group of women have now been informed. A second clinic is to be held tomorrow evening which will again be led by Prof Arnold Hill of Beaumont Hospital. However, the numbers needing recall rose beyond 97 last night after it emerged a review of remaining ultrasound scans has led doctors to call in more for examination by surgeons.

The spokesperson revealed a number of the remaining 107, whose clinical notes were reviewed, have given cause for concern.

She said most of these were contacted over the weekend and every effort will be made to ensure they are all contacted before Tuesday evening's clinic.

Unaware

It was not possible to say how many women were still unaware they needed to attend the surgical clinic by yesterday evening. She said the review of all the 568 patient files is now complete.

"I understand the surgeons have arranged appointments for those who need follow up", she added.

The helpline, manned by just two specialist nurses, did not receive many calls over the weekend and anyone who had to leave a message was rung back, she said.

The Tuesday clinic will again be held in the same centre in Portlaoise but will have to take place in the evening in order to allow Prof Hill and his team do their normal day's work in Dublin.

The report of consultant radiologist Dr Ann O Doherty, who looked at 3,000 mammograms and found breast cancer was missed in nine patients, is now with the HSE.

A spokesperson said it is expected to be published shortly.

A spokesperson for Health Minister Mary Harney said yesterday she was satisfied with the arrangements which were put in place for the women over the weekend.

Asked what plans she now has to ensure she is informed of inquiries in the future he said she is to await the report of how the debacle was handled.

The HSE board will meet on Wednesday to set up the probe and it expected to have to call in an external investigator.

A spokesman for the minister has refused to comment on the significant levels of absenteeism among some members of the HSE board which has been revealed in the Irish Independent.

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