HSE criticised for Beaumont CJD scare secrecy

The HSE has been criticised for unnecessary secrecy over the CJD scare at Beaumont Hospital after management refused to answer basic questions about the incident.

It has also emerged that more than 1,300 people have contacted a hospital helpline, though it is understood most callers were reassured while others were to be contacted.

Irish Patients’ Association chief Stephen McMahon said the HSE’s failure to disclose full details of the scare undermined patient trust: “It’s unbelievable in a mature society.”

Between 10 and 20 patients are believed to have been potentially exposed to the risk of CJD infection as they were operated on with surgical instruments used on a patient later found to have the fatal disease. The HSE would not give an exact figure, citing patient confidentiality, and would not reveal how many of those people it had managed to contact by close of business yesterday.

The health bosses also caused confusion by initially saying only patients operated on in the last four weeks were being checked, but then stating a six-week period from Jun 1 to Jul 15 was under review. They also failed for much of yesterday to put to rest questions over whether there was any suspicion the patient had CJD at the time of surgery, saying only that “this diagnosis was not expected by the treating clinicians”.

Head of health protection Dr Kevin Kelleher confirmed last night doctors “had no idea” their patient had CJD, only discovering it after a routine post-surgery biopsy check, but it is not clear if a CJD risk assessment was carried out as is required for neurosurgery patients.

It also emerged that Beaumont medics were working off guidelines for control and prevention of CJD that have been in draft form since 2010 when it was decided to update the previous 2004 advice. The HSE said the finalised guidelines were due later this year. Mr McMahon urged Enda Kenny or Health Minister James Reilly to intervene.

“With the mounting number of reasonable questions being put to the HSE and Department of Health, it’s looking like there will have to be a root and branch review of what actually happened here,” he said.

- Helpline: 1800 302602.


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