Consultant says `mistake’ occurred in sending patient for test

Medical Council inquiry told consultant’s performance fell below his `very good’ standards

Former president of the Irish Hospital Consultants’ Association Dr Colm Quigley told a Medical Council fitness to practise inquiry he accepted a now-deceased patient “did not have his tests done in a timely fashion”. Photograph: Eric Luke

Former president of the Irish Hospital Consultants’ Association Dr Colm Quigley told a Medical Council fitness to practise inquiry he accepted a now-deceased patient “did not have his tests done in a timely fashion”. Photograph: Eric Luke

Tue, Mar 26, 2013, 18:25

A former president of the Irish Hospital Consultants’ Association has said “a mistake occurred” in the handling of a patient in Co Wexford in 2009.

Dr Colm Quigley, consultant physician practising at Wexford General Hospital and the Ely Hospital at Ferrybank, Co Wexford, yesterday told a Medical Council fitness to practise inquiry he accepted a now-deceased patient “did not have his tests done in a timely fashion”.

The committee heard the patient, named only as Patient X, was referred to Dr Quigley in 2009 and was said to have been suffering from a number of complaints, including low sodium in the blood.

After the consultation, Dr Quigley wrote to Patient X's GP and said he would be carrying out a series of tests on Patient X. The tests were never carried out, however.

Patient X died of lung cancer on April 16th, 2011.

However, Dr Quigley told the inquiry yesterday he believed subsequent examination of medical records had shown Patient X had not in 2010 contracted the cancer that killed him. Therefore the missing tests could not in 2009 have revealed it.

Dr Quigley said he accepted a mistake had been made in relation to ordering the tests “and I take responsibility for that”. While he said his professional performance was generally “very good”, he said: “I am very clear my performance in this matter would fall below my standards.”

Dr Quigley said he remembered Patient X for a number of reasons including the amount of dental damage he displayed. He said Patient X was a heavy consumer of alcohol and cigarettes and had a history of a club foot. Patient X was also displaying a condition on his hands that may have been a result of a condition known as Raynaud’s phenomenon.

Dr Quigley had been concerned about Patient X and in his letter to the patient’s GP had expressed anxiety that he have the tests.

He told his counsel, Paul Anthony McDermott, there were a number of possible explanations for the tests not being carried out. One was that he had not signed the form requesting tests. Others were that the form had been signed but had become detached from the file and lost; that it was sent on but did not arrive at the intended destination, or that it got misplaced at a wrong address .

Dr Quigley's secretary, referred to only as Ms B, was asked by chairman of the inquiry, Danny O'Hare, if it was possible she had made an “error " in relation to the file.

She said she believed that was “unfair”. Mr O’Hare said she was not the subject of the inquiry and if she had made an error “there is no harm saying it”.

“But there is an implication,” she said.

Asked by another member of the committee, Melanie Pine, whether the doctor might take charts away, Ms B said: “If at the end of the clinic if Dr Quigley has to rush off he may bring charts with him to dictate at a later stage.”

“Would they come back?” Ms Pine asked.

“You would hope they would,” Ms B said.

The hearing was adjourned until April 19th.