No retest for 2,600 heart patients despite results fears

Peadar Toibin.

The HSE has refused to re-test up to 2,600 heart patients whose echocardiogram results were sent to GPs with a disclaimer about the quality of the machine.

GPs in Meath have raised concerns after seeing the disclaimer from staff saying they could not stand over the results, due to the outdated machine at Our Lady’s Hospital in Navan, Co Meath.

The HSE says that a locum consultant cardiologist at the hospital “instructed the technicians to put a disclaimer on the echocardiograms without the knowledge or approval of the hospital management”.

The questionable results were generated by the machine over a period of a year.

The issue is to be raised at Dáil level by hospital campaigner and local Sinn Féin TD Peadar Toibin, who believes it questions confidence in the health service, after he met with a number of health professionals on the matter.

He said: “I understand that Navan hospital applied for funding to replace the machine in early 2016 but the machine was not replaced until late 2017. During that time, the reports had a disclaimer added to them which left a question mark over their accuracy. This serious issue was brought to my attention recently by a GP treating patients with heart conditions.

“I’m told that up to 2,600 patients were scanned on this machine during this time.

I was of the understanding that the HSE were to re-echo hundreds of the patients as soon as possible due to the lack of confidence in the machine but this is now not the case. This does not give me confidence in the HSE.

“It’s important that we avoid the creation of unnecessary fear among patients but surely if a senior hospital staff member felt the need to put a disclaimer on the results and GPs were concerned enough to raise it with me, this must be taken seriously — especially in light of the ongoing cervical cancer debacle.”

The HSE says an application for funding for a new machine was made in 2016 but was not received as part of the Capital Equipment Replacement Programme until 2017 and the new echocardiogram machine was commissioned into use before the end of that year.

“Service contracts on the old machine were still in place until the end of 2017 and these contracts provide full traceability documentation which demonstrates the machine performing within acceptable parameters.”

“An echocardiogram is a very subjective diagnostic tool and can vary for a number of reasons depending on the patient being reviewed,” the HSE said. 

A decision not to retest was taken after HSE officials met with Our Lady’s Hospital in Navan in recent weeks to discuss the process and decided if a recall was needed.

“The Ireland East Hospital Group and management at the hospital are satisfied that there is no requirement to recall patients who had an echocardiogram in the period referenced,” said the HSE.

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