Doctor not present at inquiry into alleged misconduct

A doctor who allegedly prescribed antidepressants, benzodiazepines, and sleeping tablets to people who were not his patients was yesterday the subject of a disciplinary inquiry.

It is alleged Dr Mohamed Elhassan, while working as a senior house officer in the Cavan-Monaghan Mental Health Service in 2013, wrote prescriptions for four people who were not his patients, nor patients of the service. These included prescriptions for Xanax, a benzodiazepine used to treat anxiety; Mirtazapine, an antidepressant used to treat major depressive disorders; Nitrazepam, a benzodiazepine used to treat severe anxiety and insomnia; and Zopiclone, also used to treat insomnia.

It is also alleged Dr Elhassan interfered with the therapeutic management of a woman, Patient E, between January and June 2013, prescribing Xanax to this person, who was suffering from depression and had a history of addiction to benzodiazepines.

The inquiry, held at the Irish Medical Council’s headquarters in Dublin 2, heard Patient E died by suicide in June 2013, but Dr Elhassan does not face any allegations in relation to that tragedy.

The inquiry heard t Dr Elhassan left Ireland in 2014, and he was not present yesterday via Skype or telephone.

Dr Elhassan is originally from Sudan and qualified in Romania before coming to Ireland in 2013.

Dr Feargal Leonard, executive clinical director at the Cavan-Monaghan Mental Health Service, told the inquiry that concerns were raised about Dr Elhassan in early February 2013, shortly after he commenced employment there on 21 January.

Dr Elhassan, who told his supervisors he suffered from social anxiety and used benzodiazepines himself, went on sick leave from February 5 until April 9.

One month later, on May 28, Dr Leonard met with Dr Elhassan again, and Dr Leonard told Dr Elhassan he would not be re-employed at the Cavan-Monaghan Mental Health Services once his six-month contract was up.

On June 4, Dr Leonard heard of an incident in which Dr Elhassan had prescribed Xanax for a male patient, referred to as Patient D This concerned Dr Leonard, not least because Dr Elhassan was not allowed to prescribe Xanax to patients.

Dr Leonard met with Dr Elhassan that day and, in the course of their conversation, Dr Leonard realised the patient for whom the prescription was intended was a woman. This woman turned out to be Patient D’s daughter, referred to throughout the inquiry as Patient E.

Dr Elhassan effectively left the service that day and, shortly afterwards, Dr Leonard brought his concerns about Dr Elhassan to the Medical Council. “I thought it was a patient safety issue,” Dr Leonard said yesterday.

In previous correspondence to the Medical Council, which was read out yesterday, Dr Elhassan said prescribing the medications was a mistake, but that he had done so out of compassion for the people involved.


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