Latest: Kerry Hospital reveals diagnoses of seven patients were delayed after scans

Update - 5.44pm: Seven patients are now known to have seriously delayed diagnoses following scans at University Hospital Kerry.

It follows a briefing given to local politicians by hospital management and HSE representatives in Tralee.

46,000 scans of 26,000 patients are being reviewed after three cancer cases were initially missed by the consultant, who has since left.

General Manager of University Hospital Kerry, Fergal Grimes, told Radio Kerry that as part of their review they will be looking at the manageable work-rate of radiologists.

General Manager of University Hospital Kerry, Fearghal Grimes Pictured at a press call in the Conference room located in the hospital. University Hospital Kerry is conducting a review of over 46,000 scans or files. The files involve over 26,700 patients in an area that includes Kerry, north Cork and south Limerick. Picture: Domnick Walsh

Mr Grimes said: "Over the last month the hospital has made the decision to outsource some of the workload with regard to the radiologists to assist with regard to the loop-back process that would take the pressure off and would give some breathing space.

"It will allow us to speed this process up."

Update - 4.48pm: Kerry hospital extends helpline opening hours for next three nights A helpline for patients of University Hospital Kerry has extended its opening hours until 10pm for the next three nights.

Update 2.45pm: Patient Advocates have expressed concerns about how a doctor at University Hospital Kerry missed three cases of cancer in July and August.

They're also concerned that many patients only found out about a review sparked by the missed diagnoses through the media.

The hospital is looking back through some 46 thousand X-rays, CAT Scans and ultrasounds from March 2016 to July 2017 and will contact any patients regarding anomalies.

Patient advocate, Ann Sheehan says while it's welcome that a patient helpline has been set up, there's still a lot of uncertainty.

"My concern is how this review is being done in the first place. Nobody seems to know what has been going on in the last three months and then for the news to break so fast.

"And it is not just one case. We are talking about 26,000 cases. That is very serious."

Update 12.52pm: Three cases of cancer were missed by a doctor in University Hospital Kerry, prompting a review of over 46,000 radiology scans.

A spokesperson for the HSE says, as far as they know, the doctor responsible for the delayed diagnoses is no longer employed by the HSE.

18,000 scans have been reviewed so far, with 21 people called back for a second scan, but no further missed cases have been identified.

           

Kerry TD Michael Healy-Rae says he's satisfied that the hospital has all the resources it needs to complete the review.

“Six extra radiologists are working in conjunction with two that were already there, so there’s eight people reviewing the cases every day.

“They’re working as quickly as they can.

“I’ve asked management at the hospital ‘Do they need more resources right now?’ What I’m told is ‘No, they’re able to manage with what they’re doing’.”

Update 11.02am: Health Minister's 'hands-off approach' not acceptable in Kerry hospital scan review, says Kelleher

46,000 CAT scans, x-rays and ultrasounds taken between March 2016 and July of this year at University Hospital Kerry are involved in a safety review after complaints by GPs and consultants.

SIPTU divisional organiser Paul Bell said that when patients were recalled for the review of scans, radiographers were not told by hospital management what to tell them.

"They were given no direction by management what to tell members of the public who were recalled for an x-ray or for an ultrasound or CAT scan," he said.

"That led to a degree of ambiguity and tension as it was very, very difficult to tell a patient something that you weren't fully informed about," he added.

Member of the HSE South Regional Health Forum and and independent Councillor in Killarney Brendan Cronin said the HSE kept patients and families in the dark about the review for too long.

"They became aware, I think, at the end of July and they began the review sometime in the end of October. So, they're aware of it for five months," he said.

"It is pretty clear cut now because of statements issued that the HSE made a calculated decision not to inform the public and first of all not to inform the patients and families concerned.

"To be honest, that's shocking," he added.

Labour Health spokesperson Alan Kelly TD said serious questions remain to be answered.

He said the reports follow a similar problem in 2015 with misdiagnosed scans that also included Kerry.

“The review of 46,000 X Ray images and scans began in Kerry in October following staff concerns over the summer, yet the public is only becoming aware of it now, many weeks on,"

He said there was "enormous concern" locally.

“Serious questions must be answered, and we must ensure this does not happen again. A similar incident occurred in 2015 with the work of three locum radiologists in Kerry, Cavan and Bantry. I will be seeking answers in the Dáil on this," he added.

“Patients must be assured that when they get a scan that the examination and diagnosis they receive is correct.

“As part of the review there must also be an analysis of staffing levels in the Tralee unit. For this to happen once is bad enough, but for a similar misdiagnoses problem to arise again in Kerry raises serious questions.

He called on Health Minister Simon Harris to ensure that diagnostic operations are correctly staffed.

“The Minister for Health now has an urgent responsibility to ensure that what happened in Kerry is an isolated incident. Minister Harris should ensure that diagnostic services nationally are operating with the correct number of staff, with robust procedures in place, to ensure patients can have trust in the service.”

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Health, Billy Kelleher TD echoed these sentiments by saying he was "shocked and disturbed".

“This is a very worrying time for the patients and families of those involved. Many rightly believed that after their scan was taken, and that as follow up was recomended, that their health worries were behind them," he said.

“Minister Harris, as line minister for the HSE, needs to explain what he knew, and when he knew it. A hands off approach, which is Minister Harris’ usual modus operandi, is not acceptable in this instance.

“The Minister needs to set out what he is doing to prevent incidents like this from happening in the future at this, or indeed, any other hospital.

“I am concerned that one person was responsible for the reviewing of so many different scans. It’s clear to me that irrespective of their clinical abilities, this is a very heavy workload for any person," he added.

“What’s more concerning though is that there didn’t seem to be any oversight of this person’s work, and that there were no checks and balances in place to ensure that mistakes were spotted.

“This is the second time in three years that an incident such as this has occurred. "The missed scans in Tallaght Hospital should have spurred on a review of how diagnostics are reviewed in the HSE, but it clearly wasn’t enough to stop the same mistake happening in University Hospital Kerry," he said.

Update 10.30am: Clinical director says Kerry hospital followed HSE protocol in not informing the public of scan review

GPs and consultants had raised issues about the work of the individual at the centre of a major review of diagnoses underway at Univesity Hospital Kerry, its clinical director has told Radio Kerry this morning, writes Anne Lucey in Killarney.

There were some incidents which drew attention but none as serious as the three cancer misdiagnoses which patient doctors identified in late July, Dr Claire O’Brien said.

She went on to suggest there was potential for further missed cancer diagnoses in the 28,000 scans, x-rays and ultra sounds left to review as of today.

However the public could be reassured that only 21 people in the case of the 18,000 images looked at so far needed to be contacted.

“If there are abnormalities identified, these people will be contacted straight away,” Dr O’Brien said.

Dr O'Brien said she was concerned about reputational damage to the busy hospital which serves Kerry, parts of west and north Cork, and west Limerick.

However, the hospital (UHK) had followed “HSE protocol” in not informing the public, Dr O’Brien said.

There has been stinging criticism in Kerry by members of the regions health forum that the public has only been informed a week before Christmas of the review underway since October.

A patient helpline has opened this morning.

Update 9.17am:   SIPTU calls for independent review as Kerry hospital reviews 46,000 scans following complaints

46,000 CAT scans, x-rays and ultrasounds taken between March 2016 and July of this year at University Hospital Kerry are involved in a safety review after complaints by GPs and consultants.

Three initial patient cases at University Hospital Kerry involving delays in cancer diagnosis were identified in July and August, according to RTÉ.

Abnormalities were found by a staff member leading to the hospital examining the work of a different, former staff member.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, the hospital's Clinical Director, Dr Claire O'Brien said 18,000 images have been reviewed since October and 21 patients recalled.

She said none required further action.

She said the review, which involves over 26,700 patients, is still ongoing and is not about resources at the department.

However, speaking on the same programme, SIPTU's Health Division Organiser said radiographers raised issues with the department and its management in November last year

He added that a report in the following month highlighted a staffing deficit.

Paul Bell called for an independent review, saying SIPTU's members' concerns were being ignored.

Paul Bell said a report, published in December 2016, identified a deficit in staff levels.

Dr O'Brien said management would be dealing with SIPTU staffing concerns.

The hospital still has to review over 28,000 images and hopes to complete this within ten weeks.

A helpline has opened this morning for patients worried about scans.

Concerned patients can dial 1800-742-900.

Earlier: Helpline to open this morning for patients worried about scans at University Hospital Kerry

A helpline will open this morning for patients worried about scans at University Hospital Kerry.

46,000 CAT scans, x-rays and ultrasounds are involved in a safety review after complaints by GPs and consultants.

The tests include those taken between March 2016 and July of this year.

The hotline is available from 9am on 1800-742-900.

Fianna Fail's Health Spokesperson Billy Kelleher said patients need proper reassurance.

"The most important thing now is that we reassure all patients that attended the Kerry hospital," he said.

"We have to ensure there is a process now where they can actually assess all the scans, ultrasounds, x-rays and CAT scans themselves to identify whether or not there were any failings in those areas," he added.

KEYWORDS: Kerry Hospital

 

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