herald

Sunday 20 January 2019

Woman died after 9-month wait for cancer diagnosis

A YOUNG woman who died from a cancerous tumour had to wait nine months before being diagnosed, a medical inquiry has heard.

Sharon McEneaney, from Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan, visited Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda in October 2007 complaining of severe pains on the left side of her abdomen.

However, nine months later the 29-year-old had still not received a diagnosis. She died from a malignant tumour in 2009.

The Medical Council heard yesterday that the woman was "left in the dark" over her condition and only received a biopsy after her family sought help from local TD Dr Rory O'Hanlon.

Despite pressure being put on the hospital by the TD and the woman's GP, it was not until July 2008 that she received treatment.

Dr Etop Akpan, from Nigeria, is facing 38 allegations of professional misconduct as consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at the hospital. Dr Etop Akpan has yet to give evidence.

It emerged during the hearing that the HSE had carried out a review into the circumstances surrounding the woman's death.

And her local GP, Dr Shane Corr, revealed yesterday that he had always felt "this case was a systemic failure".

Ms McEneaney presented herself to the A&E Department at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in October 2007.

She underwent an ultrasound scan and was referred to outpatients for follow up.

She returned to the emergency department later that month, still complaining of severe pain in her abdomen. Again, she underwent a pelvic scan and was referred to the outpatients department.

Following a third scan on November 7, her case was reviewed by Dr Akpan who recommended that she be discharged and readmitted for exploratory surgery within two weeks.

However, it was almost six weeks later, on December 19, that she was readmitted to the hospital for the surgery, which revealed the tumour.

It was during this visit that her surgical team learned that she had previously been diagnosed with neurofibromatosis -- a condition that could lead to malignant tumour growth.

The council heard she had been diagnosed with the condition at the hospital in 2004.

After returning to her GP on May 13, 2008, following further visits to the hospital, she mentioned that a "mass" had been discovered.

Dr Corr revealed that it was at this point he believed her condition needed to be "urgently investigated".



unsatisfactory

The ultrasound-guided biopsy -- suggested as far back as January -- eventually took place on July 14. Dr Corr immediately contacted the hospital's pathology department to express his concern and was told the tumour was cancerous.

Ms McEneaney was referred to Beaumont Hospital in Dublin for treatment "commencing straight away", but she died in April 2009.

Dr Corr yesterday described general communications between the hospital and his practice as "extremely unsatisfactory". He also gave evidence stating that the reports sent to him when Ms McEneaney was discharged were factually incorrect.

The inquiry is expected to continue for another two days.

hnews@herald.ie

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