herald

Friday 15 December 2017

Go now, cancer victim’s daughter tells Harney

A WOMAN who fears her mother was a victim of the Tallaght hospital X-ray scandal has called on Mary Harney to resign.

Jean, not her real name, said the Minister for Health should consider her position in the wake of the debacle, which involves 58,000 X-rays.

Her comments came as the crisis at the hospital deepened, with bosses admitting nearly 3,500 letters requesting an appointment for public patients were unopened.

The hospital made the admission after family doctor Tom O'Dowd said he feared the number of unopened referral letters was as high as 30,000.

Prof O'Dowd, who alerted the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) to the x-ray scandal, said not opening referral letters was potentially more serious than the X-ray controversy.



BACKLOG

The hospital said there was a backlog of 3,498 unopened letters up to last October but that all of the referrals had now been dealt with.

It said: "The 3,500 were GP referral letters. We are not making any further comment on the letters at this time.

"We are focusing all our effort on clearing the X-ray backlog and actively managing the GP referral letters."

There are now no unopened GP referral letters for adult or child patients, it insisted.

Significant improvements have been made in improving the speed of these requests in the past year, it added.

Prof O'Dowd said patients with serious medical conditions may have been the victims of the unopened letters.

He added that not opening referral letters was potentially more serious than the failure of consultant radiologists at the hospital to read nearly 58,000 X-rays over four years. Following delayed diagnoses as a result of the non-reporting of X-rays, one patient died. Another is being treated for cancer.

Jean, whose mother died in 2007 from cancer, revealed on Newstalk's The Breakfast Show today. She said that only three months before her mum died, doctors at Tallaght told her she was suffering with "wear and tear" of her spine.

Ms Harney, who has refused to cut short her 15-day trip to New Zealand to deal with the crisis, said it was completely unacceptable that letters had remained unopened.

She added that the hospital's new chief executive, Prof Kevin Conlon, and his staff have been doing everything possible to ensure all referrals were being processed appropriately.



RESIGNATION

Minister Harney also rejected calls from the Opposition for her resignation.

Fianna Fail TD Mary O'Rourke said Ms Harney should cut short her trip to New Zealand, saying: "She should come back early, there's no doubt about that."

In her statement earlier, Ms Harney said: "There are now no unopened letters.

"The HSE, Tallaght hospital and the Department of Health and Children have agreed to work together to ensure that any patient whose letter may have been unopened will be provided with an appropriate service fully in accordance with their clinical priority."

cmurphy@herald.ie

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