Women attend special clinic after breast cancer scare

More than 60 women in the Midlands have today been attending a special breast cancer clinic over fears they were wrongly given the all-clear.

More than 60 women in the Midlands have today been attending a special breast cancer clinic over fears they were wrongly given the all-clear.

Three specialists from Dublin are re-assessing the women at the controversy hit Midlands Regional Hospital.

Their cases are being re-examined as part of a fresh inquiry into misdiagnosis at Portlaoise.

More than 500 women who only underwent ultrasounds are having their clinical notes re-assessed – with 364 patients identified as not requiring follow up treatment.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) confirmed 97 of those cases had to be re-assessed. A review of the remaining tests is continuing.

“Most of the 97 women concerned have been contacted and of those 63 confirmed that they could attend the clinic today,” said a HSE spokesperson.

“We will keep the clinic open until all those women have been seen. There is a possibility the other women concerned will be seen on Monday.”

Professor Arnie Hill, consultant breast surgeon at Beaumont Hospital, Mike Allen and Enda McDermott, are holding the clinic at the Portlaoise site.

Minister for Health Mary Harney said arrangements are also in place to ensure that any further evaluation of patients will be provided by Dr Ann O’Doherty at St Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin, on Monday afternoon.

Dr O’Doherty also headed the review team which was set up to re-assess more than 3,000 mammograms taken at Portloaise after concerns were raised about their accuracy.

Nine of those women who were wrongly given the all-clear have since been diagnosed with breast cancer and are undergoing treatment.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Ms Harney have rejected calls her resignation.

A Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) report on the case of misdiagnosed Limerick mother Rebecca O’Malley, who was wrongly given the all-clear for breast cancer, is expected to be given to Ms Harney in weeks.

It is examining pathology services in Cork University Hospital, where her tests took place, and breast disease services at the Mid-Western Regional Hospital, Limerick, where she was treated.

And breast care at Barrington’s private hospital in Limerick is also being investigated along with an HIQA inquiry on pathology services at University College Hospital Galway after a woman being treated at Barrington’s was twice wrongly given the all-clear for breast cancer following tests at the Galway lab.

The special breast cancer clinic is taking place at the Cuisle Cancer Therapy and Healing Centre in Portlaoise, a privately-owned, state-of-the-art, cancer care treatment centre.

Minister for Social Affairs Martin Cullen defended the handling of the crisis by Ms Harney, and said removing her form her position would be a wrong and catastrophic decision.

Although Mr Cullen admitted that the structure of the HSE needs to be re-examined and other issues need to be looked at, he said the Minister for Health could not be expected to take personal responsibility for every clinical decision made across the country.

“There are a number of people who have serious responsibilities within the health service and they need to step up to the plate,” Mr Cullen told RTÉ radio’s 'Saturday View' programme.

Meanwhile, Fine Gael TD for Laois-Offaly Olwyn Enright accused Mr Cullen of advocating a systems-based solution rather than a patient-based solution.

She added that neither the Government nor the HSE had a system of accountability.

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