Doctor failed to treat man struggling to breathe

A doctor who allegedly failed to treat a patient struggling to breathe as she gave a lecture to medical students is facing allegations of professional misconduct, Louise Roseingrave.

Dr Niveen Al-Khayyat was working as a Senior House Officer at the emergency department in Letterkenny General Hospital between February and July 2015. She is facing allegations of professional misconduct and or poor professional performance in relation to six patients treated at the hospital during that time.

One 58-year-old man struggling to breathe was left untreated and unmonitored as Dr Al-Khayyat gave a lecture to visiting medical students, the inquiry heard. Dr Gerry Lane, Consultant at the emergency department, described the patient as ‘in extremis’.

“He was unmonitored, he had no oxygen, he was in respiratory failure. Dr Al-Khayyat was unable to recognise how sick he was or treat him appropriately,” Dr Lane said.

A Jordanian citizen now based in Amman, Dr Al-Khayyat qualified in medicine from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland in 1986. She is representing herself at the inquiry via phone link.

The inquiry is examining a series of allegations including failure to make an adequate diagnosis and failure to communicate effectively with colleagues. Complaints from staff at the emergency department noted that she regularly sought second opinions from other staff but rarely followed through on their advice.

The inquiry heard that if approached about concerns for her ability to do her job, Dr Al-Khayyat would become defensive and argumentative.

In response, Dr Al-Khayyat said she felt discriminated against and said she was treated unfairly by staff at the hospital. She said she was made to feel humiliated. She also criticised the Medical Council for how it dealt with her case. She said she had experience in obstetrics and gynaecology and came to Ireland to get further experience. She said she had no experience of working in an emergency department.

“I was subjected to all sorts of accusations and ill-treatment for no reason,” Dr Al-Khayyat said.

One of the six patients was a 24-year-old male who had suffered a knee injury in a motorcycle accident. In her notes Dr Al-Khayyat wrote ‘cut wound, deep one. Right knee joint.’

Dr Lane said this note lacked the precision required for the role of an SHO.

“There was no mention of circulation, range of motion, if there was debris present in the wound, or the basic dimensions of the wound. Multiple items you would expect to be mentioned were lacking, Dr Lane said.

The inquiry is scheduled to last eight days.

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