The locum radiologist at the centre of a major recall of patients at Cavan Monaghan Hospital was not on the specialist register of the Medical Council.
The council’s specialist register is specifically for doctors who have completed specialist training recognised by the council and who may practise independently as a specialist. Most other doctors are on the council’s general register.
The Health Service Executive has confirmed the locum was employed through a medical agency and was registered with the council but was not on its specialist register.
Almost 3,000 X-rays and other scans performed by the locum between June and September last year have been reviewed after medical colleagues raised concerns. As a result, 62 patients were recalled by the hospital, which says none suffered any serious adverse medical outcome.
The locum is one of three whose work is being re-examined in a series of unlinked reviews. As The Irish Times reported yesterday, Bantry General Hospital has also reviewed almost 4,400 scans, the work of a separate locum radiologist, and 50 patients have been recalled. One had a delayed cancer diagnosis. A smaller review into the work of a third locum in Kerry General Hospital has forced the recall of six patients.
In all, seven hospitals are embroiled in the controversy, which was the subject of a topical issue debate in the Dáil yesterday evening. This is because the radiologist who worked in Bantry also worked in Drogheda and Connolly hospitals, where preliminary audits of his work are under way.
However, Minister for Health Leo Varadkar, who knew nothing about the reviews undertaken by the HSE since 2013 until yesterday, admitted further reviews would be necessary in a number of other hospitals where the locums worked. Pressed by Fine Gael colleague Fergus O'Dowd and Independent TD Denis Naughten to say how many additional hospitals would be subject to review, Mr Varadkar told the Dáil: "I don't know, that is being figured out."
Measures had been taken to inform the hospitals overseas where the locums now work of the reviews taking place in Ireland, he added. Mr Varadkar described the case of delayed cancer diagnosis as an “enormous tragedy” and said he felt for the family involved. But he warned against “jumping to conclusions” in relation to the locums before the facts were known.
Earlier, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he was concerned thousands of X-rays and scans had 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.
Fianna Fáil called for an urgent statement from Mr Varadkar to explain how mistakes were made in reading X-rays across the seven hospitals. Health spokesman Billy Kelleher expressed grave concern that the information came to light through the media rather than from the HSE.
Sinn Féin said the affair highlighted the dangers of relying heavily on expensive and “unknown” temporary staff.