HSE closes ranks after misdiagnoses

THE HSE has closed ranks even tighter following the disclosure by a Dáil TD this week that two more misdiagnoses had been confirmed in the northeast where reviews of 6,000 chest X-rays and 70 CT scans are underway.

Louth Fine Gael TD Fergus O’Dowd said there was deep concern among patients who were expected to wait up to two months for a new test. He said he had learned just this week that two more misdiagnoses were confirmed.

Yesterday, the HSE said: “While we appreciate that information regarding further cases may come into the public domain as we communicate with families throughout this process, the HSE will not report any further information on specific details of the reviews until the entire review process has concluded.”

The review in the north-east was prompted by concerns that four patients in two Louth/Meath hospitals during 2006 and 2007 had their diagnosis delayed due to an abnormality on their chest X-ray not being noted on initial examination. These patients were diagnosed with lung cancer by follow-up X-rays and have passed away, the HSE said.

Following expert clinical advice, a decision was made to review all chest X-rays and CT scans reported on by one consultant radiologist who worked in the region’s hospitals between August 2006 and August 2007.

“The decision to carry out this review was based on the four cases above, which came to light in late 2007 and early 2008. In the context of this review and in the last three weeks, two people already receiving treatment for lung cancer were identified to the review team. These people were found to be part of the original group of 4,500 patients to be reviewed,” it said.

Since these two people were identified, the focus has been on checking on their current status and care and assessing their significance in the context of this review, the HSE added.

“Before contact was made with the families of these patients and information provided to their families, it would have been inappropriate ethically and medically to make any public statement in relation to these cases. The HSE has been making contact with the families concerned since Friday, May 16, 2008, and continues to do so.

“Information confirmed by a HSE official to public representatives yesterday in relation to these two cases was not in line with the HSE policy of not releasing any detail of the review or the people concerned, until the review process is complete,” it said.

Stephen Mulvany, of Louth/Meath Hospitals, said: “We are very aware of the concern around this issue and we wish to place our patients first at all times during this exercise. It is HSE policy to ensure that our communication with patients... on this and similar matters take precedence over all other updates and public statements.”

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