Lawsuits filed over three delayed diagnoses cases in Kerry, Dáil hears
Sinn Féin TD claims says fifth death may be linked to errors in reading of scans
Four cancer patients died prematurely while others are terminally ill a review of more than 46,000 tests at the Tralee hospital found. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien
Litigation has started in three cases following the delay in cancer diagnosis for 11 patients at University Hospital Kerry, Tánaiste Simon Coveney has told the Dáil.
Four cancer patients died prematurely while others are terminally ill a review of more than 46,000 tests at the Tralee hospital found.
The 11 patients’ diagnosis was delayed after serious errors were made in the reading by a locum radiologist of almost 1,300 scans.
Mr Coveney said the State Claims Agency is managing the cases and its objective was to avoid going to court if possible.
The report of the review, published this week, was sparked after patients were found to have cancer despite being given the all clear.
Sinn Féin deputy leader Pearse Doherty said the review stated four people had died but he said there was a fifth person whose family believe she died as a result of a misdiagnosis or a delayed diagnosis.
She had been told that she was part of the review in February but heard nothing after that point.
He also claimed that “the radiologist who was reviewed is not the only radiologist who was involved” in the case of one of the 11 identified patients.
The Donegal TD said that one of the patients who is now 71 years old had three chest X-rays but his cancer was not picked up and “there was another doctor who reported in at least one of those scans”.
It was only because of the insistence of the man’s wife that another X-ray was taken.
Mr Doherty also said it was of great concern that a timescale could not be given for the implementation of the report’s recommendations.
But Mr Coveney said it was his understanding that the 16 recommendations in the review were already being implemented and they would be implemented.
They did not know the circumstances around each individual case “so we should be careful around what we say about that in relation to apportioning blame and responsibility”.
But he said he wanted to assure Mr Doherty that the State would do everything it could to ensure the maximum possible care for the family he referred to.
Fianna Fáil deputy leader Dara Calleary highlighted 2018 as a year marked by a series of tragic incidents including the CervicalCheck controversy, in which women were not told that smear test results showing them to be free of cancer were inaccurate.
He said he joined in the expressions of sympathy but said “we do this every time we have an incident, and that sympathy is heartfelt but we do not learn from it”.
Mr Calleary pointed out that 500 consultant posts, 16 per cent of the total consultancy posts in the State, were filled by non-consultant doctors and this was having a major impact on staff and on standards of care.
He asked if the radiologist involved was still working in the health system.
The Tánaiste said the Medical Council had been informed about issues with the radiologist who had resigned from the hospital.
The number of consultants and nurses being hired had increased in the past year and recruitment efforts were continuing.
He said patients and families expect that if mistakes are made “they will be exposed quickly through the systems that pick them up and that we learn lessons from them in order that they are less likely to be repeated in the future” and that was happening in this case.