HSE repeatedly misdiagnosed deaf child as having normal hearingBy Fiachra Ó Cionnaith - Tuesday, July 10, 2012
The HSE has apologised to the family of a deaf child after he was repeatedly misdiagnosed by precautionary tests imposed after a series of errors in testing other children.
Liam Cunneen-McCormack, 5, is profoundly deaf, facing a two-year wait for vital treatment, out of mainstream education, and has speech and language difficulties.
The case comes a year after a probe uncovered multiple audiology misdiagnoses in the HSE South between 2001 and 2007, blamed on a single worker who left the system before Liam was misdiagnosed.
As Liam was initially examined by this worker on Jun 13, 2007, the child, from Glanmire, Co Cork, and 25 other newborns underwent precautionary re-testing.
Liam’s parents, Julie and Keith, were told their child was fine on Jan 27, 2009, by the then head of the Cork audiology service, Sally O’Dwyer (who is not the above unnamed worker blamed for the 2001-2007 misdiagnoses).
On Feb 10, 2009, Ms O’Dwyer restated that Liam had normal hearing.
On Jun 18, Liam was tested by two UK audiologists. In a report sent to the HSE South service, they said Liam had an "overall fail" and should be referred for another re-test or treatment "as a matter of urgency".
This report, which HSE records show was filed three days before an official accessed Liam’s file on Jun 21, 2009, failed to be acted on for 17 months.
The McCormacks were not told of its conclusions. However, after two pre- schools raised concerns over Liam’s responses, interaction, and balance, they contacted the HSE South on Nov 15, 2010.
A re-test, overseen by Ms O’Dwyer and her colleague Charlotte Fairweather, confirmed that Liam was profoundly deaf in both ears.
After being refused access to her son’s files, Julie placed a freedom of information request, and found that the UK audiology test 17 months earlier had raised serious concerns.
An independent HSE report on Oct 7, 2011, said the failure to act was an "unfortunate systems error" — a claim the McCormacks said was a "whitewash".
A HSE spokeswoman said she could not comment on individual cases, and declined to pass on questions to Ms O’Dwyer. However, she confirmed the service "has acknowledged and apologised for the delay in the treatment of one child" and that in some cases children’s deafness may develop over a short period of time.
A solicitor for Ms O’Dwyer said it would not be appropriate for his client to comment.
Liam received a hearing implant in his right ear in February but will have to wait for at least two years for a left ear implant.
The McCormacks have gone public over concerns misdiagnoses may not have been confined to one worker and more children may be at risk.