Cancer patients not notified of tests due
Thousands of records at the Mid-Western Regional Hospital in Nenagh have been rechecked over concerns that patients were not notified of cancer tests they were due to receive.
Clerical errors and an outdated system of record-keeping at the hospital have also led to patients missing outpatient and review appointments, a spokesman for the Health Service Executive has confirmed.
The Irish Times understands the checks were ordered after it emerged a number of patients were not notified of the follow-up appointments and tests they were due to receive. The review covered files dating back up to five years and employed a number of staff over recent months, according to a source.
The spokesman said some 4,300 patients at the hospital had their charts cross-referenced with manual records, as part of the upgrading of records from a manual to a computerised system.
This process identified 17 patients who had not received surveillance review endoscopies “within the indicated timeframe”. Typically used to check for pre-cancerous conditions in the gastrointestinal tract or another organ, an endoscope comprises a lens mounted on a flexible tube which is inserted into the body.
The spokesman said there was no case of any one of these patients suffering adverse health consequences. “We are confident the IT system will eliminate any reoccurrence in the future,” he added. However, sources said the new IT system was proving problematic and staff had been told to keep a paper backup. In some cases, patients were called for appointments which had not been listed with consultants, resulting in the patients being sent home on arrival for their appointments.
In common with every major hospital in the State, the Mid-Western regional hospitals group, which includes Nenagh, was examining its waiting lists, the spokesman said.
Last year, 9,100 patients in the Mid-West hospital group failed to show up for scheduled outpatients appointments; a further 24,334 did not attend review appointments.
The spokesman said the reasons for this were “many and varied”. They included patients going elsewhere for treatment, emigrating or changing their minds. However, in other cases they were the result of clerical error or an outdated system of keeping records.
Endoscopies account for a major part of Nenagh hospital’s day surgical and medical procedures.
Nenagh has recently begun providing endoscopies on Saturday mornings in an effort to clear its waiting lists. However, regular weekly sessions have had to be cancelled after staff went on holiday and a locum was not sanctioned on time, according to local sources.
Nenagh lost its 24-hour emergency department in April 2009, when it was changed to a 12-hour local emergency care centre. Last year, the HSE announced that patients with emergency cardiology or medical conditions would no longer be treated at the hospital and would instead be diverted to the Mid-Western Regional Hospital in Limerick.
HSE figures show there are 3,305 patients on the waiting list for outpatient appointments at Nenagh, including more than 1,000 who have been waiting over one year.