Four UHK patients whose diagnoses were 'delayed' have since died, HSE report into scandal reveals

Sinead Kelleher

Four patients whose cancers were missed on initial examination of scans at University Hospital Kerry are now dead. The four were among 11 patients in total with serious illnesses a consultant radiologist failed to pick up at the hospital between March 2016 and July 2017.

University Hospital Kerry and the HSE this week issued an unreserved apology to all patients and families 'who have been affected by this review'. It was 'regrettable' that four patients whose serious diagnoses were 'delayed' had died, the HSE stated. 

The review was launched in July of last year when management at the hospital learned of three missed cancer diagnoses that were not picked up by the locum who had examined the images. 

The radiologist was placed on administrative leave as a preliminary audit of their work got underway, leading to the comprehensive review.  Its findings were presented at a briefing in The Rose Hotel, Tralee, on Wednesday afternoon revealing the full scale of the scandal.

The review team said they believed the radiologist is no longer working, with the Irish Medical Council now carrying out an investigation into the individual. The radiology 'look-back' review  encompassed 46,234 images - CT scans, ultrasound scans and chest X-rays -  relating to 26,754 individual patients.

The HSE would not be drawn on the prognosis of the remaining seven of the 11 patients whose serious illnesses were initially missed; refusing to say if any are now terminal.

Civil actions have been initiated by a number of patients and/or their families, the HSE did confirm.  The review has recommended a number of measures in a bid to ensure patient safety. 

"I would expect that the learning from this review will contribute to the improvement of radiology services, not just in UHK, but across all of our hospitals," review leader Dr Gerard O'Callaghan said.