| 6.7°C Dublin

Shock as new chief of X-ray scandal hospital quits ahead of report

THE CEO designate of Tallaght Hospital has quit as a report into a misdiagnosis scandal in the hospital is completed.

The shock decision comes just days before a report into the X-ray scandal is due to land on Mary Harney's desk.

Professor Kevin Conlon has informed the hospital's board that he wants to return to his old role as Medical Director, the Herald can reveal.

The crisis-hit hospital has now had five chief executives in just 12 years.

A former member of the Adelaide and Meath Hospital board said today that he was "surprised, even shocked" and "very concerned" by the decision.

However, sources at the hospital are denying that his decision is linked to the controversy surrounding how thousands of X-rays had not been properly checked and GP letters went unopened. Last March, it emerged that 58,000 X-rays of adult patients -- taken between 2005 and the end of 2009 -- were not reviewed by a consultant radiologist.

One patient died as a result of a delayed diagnosis, while another was receiving treatment for cancer at the time.

Prof Conlon made the discovery shortly after taking over from Michael Lyons who retired due to illness last December.


He immediately informed Health Minister Mary Harney but she was in New Zealand on two-week St Patrick's Day junket when the scandal came into the public domain in March.

Ms Harney's spokesperson confirmed this morning that she is aware of Prof Conlon's decision.

The professor did receive significant praise for his handling of the X-ray situation; however there was also a call for his removal by the Irish Patients' Association.

Sources have told the Herald that hospital chairman, Lyndon McCann, informed the board of the professor's request to return to his clinical practice last Monday.

It is believed that Prof Conlon did not attend the meeting as he is on annual leave.

"He wasn't just the preferred choice for this job, he was already the designate. It was just a matter of signing off," said the source.

However, another source insisted that the move was "simply a career decision".

His decision to step down will come as a major blow to the hospital, just days before a report into the X-ray scandal is due to be delivered to the Department of Health.

At the height of the controversy, HSE CEO Prof Brendan Drumm commissioned Dr Maurice Hayes to chair a review into the problems.

Speaking to the Herald today, former member of the Tallaght Hospital board and local Fianna Fail TD Charlie O'Connor said the steady turnover of CEOs was a "very unfortunate" situation.

"The staff and patients need strong and consistent leadership in the hospital," he said.

Prof Conlon is a vastly experienced medic and one of the leading specialists in the treatment of pancreatic cancer.

He is currently Secretary General of the European Hepatobiliary-Pacreatico-Biliary Association and is President-Elect of the Pancreas Society of Great Britain and Ireland.

Sources said that the heavy workload of these combined jobs played a role in his decision to remove himself from the CEO position.

A spokesperson for the hospital was not available for comment today.