Patient tracking system ‘is not fit for purpose’

Dr Colm Quigley

A consultant who failed to follow up on tests for a patient who later died of cancer says he believes a system used for tracking patient results in Wexford General Hospital is “not fit for purpose”.

Colm Quigley, the current statutory clinical director of the hospital, said financial constraints have prevented the system from being replaced.

The hospital, said Dr Quigley, was one of the few in Ireland still operating the system. He had concerns about the system from as far back as the 1990s.

The consultant physician told a Medical Council inquiry that he could not explain why the tests were not carried out, and conc-eded that his performance fell below the standards he would have liked to achieve for his patients.

Under cross-examination on the second day of a fitness-to-practise inquiry into his treatment of a man, Patient X, Dr Quigley said he was quite clear a mistake had occurred and he accepted responsibility for that.

“Patient X didn’t have his tests done in a timely fashion,” said Dr Quigley.

He also apologised to the deceased’s family for sending them a letter enquiring after the patient’s health shortly after the man had died. He told the inquiry a phonecall he subsequently made to the deceased’s wife to apologise “made things worse”.

Dr Quigley, a former president of the Medical Council, faces nine allegations of poor professional performance in relation to his treatment of Patient X. The patient had been a smoker who had an operation on his clubbed feet early in life but had an active work life as a carpenter.

Due to low blood sodium levels, Patient X was referred to Dr Quigley in Aug 2009. Dr Quigley faces allegations that he failed to ensure a series of tests, including a bronchoscopy (an examination of the airways) and an X ray of the lungs, were carried out.

He also faces allegations that, at a subsequent consultation with Patient X in Dec 2010, he failed to recognise these investigations had not taken place.

Patient X, who also had peripheral vascular disease, was admitted to hospital in early 2011, when his lower left leg was amputated. He was subsequently found to have inoperable lung cancer and died from the disease on April 16, 2011.

Under cross-examination yesterday, Dr Quigley said the tests he failed to carry out on Patient X would not have spotted the cancer from which he died.

He claimed a bronchoscopy would not have found any abnormality in Patient X’s airway because when the same examination was carried out before his death, in Mar 14, 2011, there was not any abnormality found.

Dr Quigley said he has come to the conclusion that the forms he would have filled out requesting the tests on Patient X were sent to Wexford General hospital and were mislaid.

The inquiry has been adjourned to a later date.


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