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Public inquiry into cancer misdiagnoses in North East - Sharkey

19 May, 2008

Louth Sinn Féin Councillor Tomás Sharkey has called for a public inquiry to establish what went wrong to cause the HSE North East as 4,590 patients have now received letters warning that they may have cancer even though they had previously gotten the all clear.

Councillor Sharkey also said whoever made the decision not to tell families of possible misdiagnoses for a period of six months should be sacked.

He said, "4,590 letters have now gone out advising patients that their files are being reviewed because of a possible misreading of the x-ray they had to discover if they had cancer. Some letters have actually arrived months after the person in question has died as a result of cancer much to the dismay of their loved ones.

"A locum radiologist was employed by the HSE from the period August 2006 to August 2007. A man in my constituency was x-rayed in May 2007 and he was sent home after being told that all was ok. On the 14 November 2007 he was readmitted to hospital and x-rayed. This time the radiologist on duty immediately recognised cancer on the x-ray. That new radiologist checked the May 2007 x-ray result and realised that it was clearly shown on that one also.

"The HSE tried to cover it up. Only when he went to another hospital for further treatment was he told he had cancer. X-rays of this man were taken just hours before he died and the family have never been given an explanation as to why. All of this adds to the pain and the cruelty and the trauma but also to the view that the HSE tried to cover this up.

"The HSE originally said four people died as a consequence of misdiagnosis however this figure now heading for ten. This is an example of an organisation that is totally in crisis and incapable of dealing with this urgent situation.

"A public inquiry is required to be establish what went wrong and whoever made the decision not to tell families for a period of six months should be sacked.

"Since Health Minister Mary Harney came into office four years ago there has been a series of major mismanagement examples anyone of which would lead to the immediate resignation of a Minister for Health in any state with the possible exemption of Zimbabwe. The culmination of these means that she should be gone and it is an indictment of this government that they have put up with such an incompetent Minister for so long.

"Councillors Declan Breathnach of Fianna Fáil and Terry Brennan of Fine Gael have now resigned as represenatives on the HSE North East Forum. They are walking away on the people of Louth. Mary Harney is the only person who should resign on this, not any local councillor. Their actions leave Louth people with only two reps when we should have four. They are walking away from their responsibilities as elected representatives. They are abandoning the people of Louth at this time of crisis.

"I am calling for all resources necessary to go into the re-examination of these x-rays even if this means bringing in radiologists from wherever they are available in continental Europe. The HSE say it will take eight weeks to re-examine all the x-rays. This is totally unacceptable as the gentleman that I have referred to was dead within seven weeks of getting a proper diagnosis. People are not able to sleep or eat for the fear they are feeling as a result of this." ENDS

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