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Fetal scan scandal shows we must do better checks, says HSE chief

THE HSE has admitted that ultrasound training needs to be ramped up and scans double checked as hundreds of concerned women have flooded maternity hospital helplines

Professor Michael Turner, Clinical Lead of the HSE's Obstetrics Programme, said that the standard of training needed to be improved but said that best practice was to wait and repeat the scan at a later stage.

He urged those in the medical profession to be extremely cautious when diagnosing a miscarriage in the very early stages of pregnancy in light of the fetal scanning scandal.

"Clinical experience tells us that in many cases it's good practice to wait and repeat the scan two weeks later to be absolutely certain," he said.

While Prof Turner outlined that Ireland had one of the lowest maternal mortality rates in the world, he admitted that scans had "limitations" but it was important they were not viewed in isolation from a patient's history. "The diagnosis of miscarriage is made on the basis of a woman's history, physical examination and investigations including ultrasound," Prof Turner said. "It is important to treat the woman who is pregnant and not to consider the scan in isolation."

Health Minister Mary Harney has for the first time expressed sympathy with the women who had had a miscarriage wrongly diagnosed. The minister added that just because she had not been on TV or radio, it did not mean she had not been working hard to put things right. "My concern has been to ensure that we can put right as far as we can obstetric services around the country," she said.

There are fears that ultrasound scanning services could now be swamped in maternity hospitals in light of the scandal.

Anxious women are being directed to contact the hospital where they received treatment, if they are uneasy about the diagnosis or treatment they received in hospital at the time of their pregnancy.