Probe finds ‘failures’ at children’s hospital

A fitness to practise committee of the Irish Medical Council has expressed serious concern about surgical procedures at Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin after it claimed there was “significant evidence of systems failures, weaknesses and errors” at the hospital.

The IMC committee’s criticism was made as part of an inquiry which yesterday found one of the country’s top paediatric surgeons guilty on three counts of poor professional performance. The findings were made against Professor Martin Corbally, a former consultant surgeon at Our Lady’s Hospital, over his role in how the wrong operation was performed on a young girl in Apr 2010.

Prof Corbally, who is working at the King Hamad University Hospital in Bahrain, had denied four charges of poor professional performance. Last night he described himself as “disappointed” at the decision.

“I have always endeavoured to do my best for my patients, their parents and the staff working alongside me. I will continue to do so. It is regrettable that trusted hospital systems failed to ensure a safe procedure but I am happy to note that baby X has made a full and complete recovery and that the surgery I performed led to a successful outcome. Every hospital relies on its staff to support each other and their colleagues to ensure patient safety and good outcomes.”

The two-year-old had required an operation to release the fold of skin attaching her upper lip to her gum. However, she underwent a tongue-tie operation instead.

IMC committee chairman Prof Gerry Bury said the case highlighted an inadequate surgical booking and coding system. While the coding issue in relation to this specific operation had been addressed, Prof Bury said it was unclear if a complete review of the coding system had taken place.

Prof Bury claimed the case had also revealed a weakness in communication and clinical leadership.

The committee found that Prof Corbally was guilty of poor professional performance for incorrectly describing the procedure in the patient’s medical records on Feb 25, 2010, as well as failing to communicate adequately the procedure to be performed when he delegated the operation to a colleague on Apr 30.

It also ruled his failure to apply the appropriate standards of clinical judgement which could be expected from a surgeon with his experience constituted poor professional performance. A fourth charge against him was withdrawn by the IMC committee.

Prof Bury said sanctions would be imposed on Prof Corbally at a later stage.

In a statement in which it apologised to the family, Our Lady’s said it had reviewed and implemented improvements in its practices, including its booking and coding process. It said it had robust systems and procedures for the management of surgical patients.

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