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Harney knew of miscarriage misdiagnosis issue since August 2009 – Ó Caoláin

15 June, 2010 - by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD

Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has called for an urgent explanation in the Dáil tomorrow (Wednesday) from Health & Children Minister Mary Harney about why it was only after Melissa Redmond and other mothers went public that the HSE ordered a review of cases over the past five years, even though the Minister has known of the issue since August 2009.

In a reply (copy below) to a written Dail Question from Deputy Ó Caoláin this evening, Minister Harney admits that the Melissa Redmond case was brought to her attention in August last year.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

“When Melissa Redmond courageously spoke out about her experience in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda she was followed by other women across the State with similar experiences. Minister Harney stayed silent on the issue which was a cause of huge concern and, indeed, grief to many women. Now for the first time Minister Harney has admitted that she knew of the Melissa Redmond case since August 2009, the month following the mistaken diagnosis of miscarriage.

“In her reply Minister Harney describes how her Department and the HSE handled the Redmond case but gives no indication that the wider implications were considered or that they even looked at the possibility that women might have had similar experiences in other hospitals.

“In the Dáil tomorrow I will be calling on Minister Harney to come into the House to explain her silence and her inaction and to explain why it was only after the issue received widespread publicity that the HSE ordered its review of cases over the past five years. This will be a hugely traumatising experience for possibly hundreds if not thousands of women who may find that their viable pregnancies were terminated after being wrongly diagnosed as miscarriages.

“This issue has been known to the Minister, her Department and the HSE at least since August 2009. It is a classic case of patients not being listened to. We must have full disclosure.” ENDS


DÁIL QUESTION addressed to the Minister for Health and Children (Ms. Harney (Dublin Mid-West))
by Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin
for WRITTEN ANSWER on 15/06/2010

* To ask the Minister for Health and Children when the misdiagnosis of miscarriage in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, County Louth and the resulting hospital internal inquiry was first brought to her attention; the action that she has taken; the further action she intends to take in view of this and similar cases; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

- Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Details Supplied: Melissa Redmond , Donabate, Co. Dublin.

I would first like to say that all incidents of this kind are serious and are treated as such. They are distressing to the women and families involved and I wish to again express my sincerest sympathies to all of those that are affected.

On 7 August 2009, the Solicitors for this person wrote to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda seeking certain assurances about her care and other actions to be carried out by the hospital.

On the same day, the solicitors wrote a short letter to me enclosing a copy of that letter. This was also copied to the CEO of the HSE and to the State Claims Agency.

The case was handled by my Department in line with the Patient Safety Protocol which was adopted in September 2008. The protocol deals with correspondence from patients, doctors, health service staff and solicitors. It is managed by the Chief Medical Officer on my behalf as a medical assessment of any potential patient safety issue is required.

Both my Department and the hospital treated the letters with urgency. Within one week the HSE responded to the solicitors and a further letter was sent on 24 August. I was copied on both these letters.

In line with the Protocol, my Department followed up by telephone and by letter with the HSE to determine if there were risk issues arising from their investigation of the case. The HSE reviewed the case and confirmed that it had put a number of measures in place to ensure that the chances of making an error of this kind again are minimised.

The Chief Medical Officer was satisfied that the case had been dealt with appropriately by the HSE. At the time of completion by April last, it was assessed that the review and follow up actions for patient safety had been put in place at the hospital.

Measures put in place by the HSE in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, following this incident include:
A policy was put in place to ensure that no patient is prescribed a drug to take prior to a D&C (Dilation and Curettage) until the diagnosis of 'missed miscarriage' has been confirmed by a qualified sonographer through a second scan;
A “split” examination couch was put in place in the unit to facilitate the scanning procedure;
The scan machine that was in use in the hospital was replaced;
In July of this year a dedicated qualified sonographer will be assigned from 9.00 to 13.00;
The adjacent rooms/offices of the Gynaecological ward are used to speak privately with women and their partners.

A number of actions have been agreed by the HSE in conjunction with my Department to ensure the safe management of early pregnancy loss across the country.

The HSE is in the process of initiating a review of cases over the past five years to determine the number of patients who were recommended drug or surgical treatment when the diagnosis of miscarriage was made in error, and where subsequent information demonstrated that the pregnancy was viable. The terms for the conduct of the review are being finalised at present and will be made public very shortly. At that stage the HSE will be in a position to provide an indicative timeline for the completion of the review.

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