Kenny ‘concerned’ at hospital recalls after X-ray errors

Mistakes found in work of locum radiologists employed by HSE

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar says it is a "real tragedy" that a wrong reading of an X-ray has lead to a delayed cancer diagnosis.

The Minister was speaking following The Irish Times report that thousands of X-rays and scans have been reviewed and hundreds of patients recalled after errors were found.

The mistakes were discovered in the work of three locum radiologists employed by the Health Service Executive and at least one patient has had a late cancer diagnosis as a result of the mistakes made.

Mr Varadkar said he had only been briefed about the errors today.

“In one of those cases, the person’s diagnosis was missed. It is a real tragedy for us. We need to know exactly what happened,” he said. “The information I have at the moment is quite limited. I’m only getting information about this today for the first time.”

Three locum radiologists were reported to the Medical Council after medical colleagues raised concerns with their work. Seven hospitals have been affected.

Mr Varadkar said he had requested a full report from the HSE in relation to the three locum radiologists.

He told RTÉ Radio One the problem was not with too many locums and temps being hired in the health sector.

“What the real issue might be here, and it’s too early to judge, not so much the fact we have locums and temps from time to time- its more about quality assurance.”

Mr Varadkar said there needed to be “a second set of eyes” on all scans and X-rays done in hospitals.

Taoiseach reacts

Earlier on Thursday, Taoiseach Enda Kenny says he is “of course” concerned thousands of X-rays and scans have need to be reviewed and hundreds of patients recalled after errors were found.

Mr Kenny said Mr Varadkar and the HSE were looking at the range of challenges in the health sector.

“There are clearly changes that are needed in the structures of the way things have been done,” he said.

"There is always challenges and have always been challenges and will always be challenges, particularly in the health sector, not just in Ireland but practically in every country in the world."

The three locum radiologists have been reported to the Medical Council after medical colleagues raised concerns with their work. Seven hospitals have been affected.

Mr Kenny said he was concerned with the number of patients that needed to be recalled.

“Of course I am,” he said. “We want to see that every person has at their disposal access to medical treatment and medical facilities based on their need as distinct to what they’ve got in their pocket.

“That’s why the Government intention is to move to Universal health insurance and the abolition of two tier system.”

Mr Kenny was speaking after the launch of the Government’s quarterly report on the action plan for jobs in Dublin.

Fianna Fáil’s health spokesman called for an urgent statement from Mr Varadkar to explain how the mistakes were made.

“The fact that people who have undergone X-Rays and scans at these seven hospitals are only learning this news from the media today is extremely worrying. Why was the Health Minister not out in front of this? Why did we have to read about it in the Irish Times and not from Minister Varadkar and his HSE management?” he asked.

“Unfortunately it’s not the first time that something like this has happened. We need to know why a crisis like this was allowed to happen again if it truly is the case that lessons were learned from the controversy involving tens of thousands or unread or misread scans at Tallaght Hospital.”

The three locums, who no longer work in Ireland, worked at Kerry General Hospital, Cavan Monaghan Hospital and Bantry General Hospital.

The locum who worked in Bantry went on to work in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital Drogheda, Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown, Wexford General Hospital and Roscommon Hospital.

Bantry hospital is the worst-affected where 4,388 scans and X-rays examined between May and September 2013 have been reviewed.

Fifty patients were recalled and one had a delayed cancer diagnosis.

Cavan Monaghan hospital has recalled 62 patients after 2,980 examinations performed by a locum radiologist needed to be reviewed.

The hospital said none of the patients suffered any “serious” adverse outcomes.

At Kerry General, six patients were recalled. Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda and Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown are both carrying out audits on the work of the radiologist who worked in Bantry that was also employed with them for short periods.

Wexford and Roscommon hospitals, who the same radiologist also worked in, are satisfied no patient safety concerns were identified.