Consultant surgeon repeated medical notes error in hospital letter
A CONSULTANT surgeon who put a mistake he made in a child’s medical notes down to “human error” caused by tiredness later made the same mistake in a letter to hospital risk management, a Medical Council fitness-to-practise committee heard yesterday.
Prof Martin Corbally, a paediatric surgeon at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin, Dublin, when the mistake happened in 2010, told the inquiry if he had known the child referred to as Baby X was a private patient, he would have carried out the procedure on her himself instead of delegating it to his registrar.
In April 2010, Baby X from Co Meath had a tongue tie operation, a lingual frenulectomy, releasing the fold of skin beneath her tongue. What she actually needed was an upper labial frenulectomy, to release the fold of skin attaching her upper lip to her gum.
The after-effects of the mistake included constant drooling, her mother had said, and her tongue hung out of her mouth. But she subsequently made a full recovery.
Prof Corbally is facing four allegations of poor professional performance following the error.
Giving evidence yesterday via video link from Bahrain, where he is chief of staff at King Hamad University Hospital, he acknowledged he wrote the word “lingual”, tongue, instead of “labial”, lip, not only in the notes of Baby X, but also in a letter to risk management three times in the first five sentences. Inquiry committee member Winifred Jeffers queried the repeated error. “Would you not have been super sensitive to it by then?” she asked.
“I am now,” Prof Corbally replied.
Under cross-examination from JP McDowell, solicitor for the Medical Council, he said he had contracts to see patients privately “and to treat them privately” which he endeavoured to do.
“I was never advised the child was private,” he said.
Kieran O’Driscoll, consultant ear, nose and throat surgeon at the Midlands Regional Hospital, and expert witness for Prof Corbally, said he did not believe the transcript error made by the surgeon amounted to poor professional performance. Neither did his communication with his registrar.
“Prof Corbally did what all of us do every day; he devolved responsibility down the line,” Mr O’Driscoll said.
The Irish hospital system did not make it possible for him to perform all the operations on the list.
There had been a “sequence of errors” at the hospital which needed to be addressed, he said, “rather than casting stones”.
The case was adjourned to October 1st.