Review finds 12 bowel cancers missed at Wexford General Hospital

Thursday 18 February 2016 06.29
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Around 600 patients were recalled due to concerns over colonoscopies at the hospital
Around 600 patients were recalled due to concerns over colonoscopies at the hospital
Around 12 cancers were missed at the hospital
Around 12 cancers were missed at the hospital

RTÉ News has learned a major patient recall and review of bowel screening cases at Wexford General Hospital has identified around 12 missed cancers, including one probable avoidable death.

Around 600 patients were recalled, due to issues with colonoscopies at the hospital in 2013 and 2014.

The patients, who are from Wexford and beyond, had undergone a screening colonoscopy, or a diagnostic colonoscopy, some as part of the national BowelScreen programme.

It is understood the death involved a male patient.

The Ireland East Hospital Group, under which Wexford General is now managed, said today that once the report into the events has been signed-off, it will be sent to various parties, before it can be published.

"The recall of all patients and the subsequent report and its findings are in the final stages,” the group said.

"Once the report has been signed off it will need to be sent to all referenced parties within it before it can be published", it added.

In a response to a series of questions from RTÉ News, the Irish East Group said it had no further comment to make at this time.

After the death of Suzie Long in October 2007, the HSE's national BowelScreen programme was set-up and around 15 hospitals were established as designated centres, including Wexford General.

Susie Long died after a delay of about seven months in getting a colonoscopy in the public hospital system.

The recall of patients at Wexford followed the identification of two patients in October and November 2014 with interval cancers - a cancer that is detected between bowel screenings.

Issues were then raised about the quality of screening.

It is understood the Ireland East Hospital Group is required to provide the final review report on this controversy to relevant parties for observations for legal reasons.

"The recall of patients that arose from a recheck of Bowel Screen colonoscopies at Wexford General Hospital in 2014 has been thoroughly and comprehensively investigated," the group said. 

"Throughout the process, patients and their families have been provided with full information, appropriate follow up and treatment as needed in a timely manner."

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has said he is concerned primarily that any cancers may have been missed.

He has extended his sympathy to the families involved and in particular to the family of the deceased. 

Mr Varadkar said he has been assured that there has been full open disclosure in the cases. He said he is also concerned about the length of time the Wexford General Hospital review had taken. 

He said he is conveying to the HSE the need to improve quality assurance, so that lessons can be learned and mistakes not repeated. 

Wexford General Hospital

Mr Varadkar said he has been briefed on the issue since early 2015 and was aware of the issue, which first featured in the media last year.

Meanwhile, the Irish Patients Association has said the findings of the review is a cause of concern given the issue relates to major patient safety events. 

Its chairman, Stephen McMahon, said that on the surface it appears that the system picked up the problem. 

The association has asked whether there has been open disclosure to all of the patients and the families affected. 

Mr McMahon questioned whether the review was independent and what its exact terms of reference were. He said full details need to be disclosed about the number of people affected.