A LEADING hospital is risking a repeat of the Tallaght X-ray scandal after it emerged it is failing to send out vital medical documents to GPs.
The Irish Examiner has learned there have been delays in sending out fully completed X-rays at Mallow General Hospital since the start of April, and are still occurring despite HSE denials.
Over the past four months hundreds of patients treated for conditions ranging from broken bones to cancer have been forced to wait lengthy periods before learning the details of their condition.
While X-rays are normally sent back to a referring GP within days, radiology staff shortages have resulted in patients waiting between four and six weeks.
As a result, while the X-rays are being scheduled and taken, some are not checked for abnormalities for weeks because just one part-time consultant radiologist is working, while others are being sent to Cork University Hospital (CUH) for external examination.
Of those checked, a significant proportion are not being returned to GPs for between four and six weeks because of administrative staff shortages caused by the HSE’s recruitment embargo.
“Most GPs will have to send about 3% of their patients for X-rays,” Mallow GP Dr David Molony told the Irish Examiner.
His colleague, Duhallow-based GP Dr Bertie Daly, added while X-rays for patients with potentially serious heart problems are taking place, “there is no guarantee they will be read in time”.
Despite the concerns, the HSE has denied the issue is taking place.
In a statement issued last month in a response to an initial query by the Irish Examiner, a HSE spokeswoman insisted while a minor issue occurred in mid-spring, it had been resolved.
“Instead of the usual one-to-two week turnaround, non-urgent X-ray reports were sent back to GPs within three-to-four weeks. By the second half of May the situation had been resolved, and the turnaround time for urgent X-ray reports was not affected during this period,” the spokeswoman claimed.
However, when the true extent of the delays was uncovered by this newspaper, the spokeswoman confirmed while it is “standard practice” for “any abnormality found on an X-ray to be phoned through to the GP immediately”, hundreds of X-rays are failing to be sent out.
Fine Gael councillor Noel O’Connor said the failure to address the issue is putting patients in real danger.
Labour Cork North East TD Sean Sherlock said it is now “one disaster after another” for Mallow Hospital.
The inquiry into the crisis at the Dublin hospital, which led to 57,921 X-rays not being read by a consultant radiologist, has yet to be published by Health Minister Mary Harney.
As a result of the delays, one patient died while another has cancer.
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