Ninety-seven patients who attended the Midland Regional Hospital in Portlaoise over concerns about breast cancer are to be recalled over the next week for a surgical review.

John O'Brien of the HSE told the Dáil Committee on Health and Children that 568 ultrasounds performed at the hospital are the subject of the current inquiry by Dr Ann O'Doherty.

At this point, 294 of these have been examined and 97 patients are being recalled for surgical review. The review of a further 177 ultrasounds will be completed by the weekend.

The Minister for Health, Mary Harney, has said that the first she had heard of the 97 cases was at today’s Oireachtas committee meeting.

The Minister said she accepts that there are communication issues around the way in which information was communicated at an Oireachtas Committee meeting today.

Minister Harney said that if there were a no confidence motion in her she would deal with that at the time.

Mr O'Brien said the HSE was sourcing extra capacity in Dublin hospitals to deal with the workload.

He told the committee that while the review of mammograms was almost complete, the review of ultrasounds was still ongoing.

Mr O'Brien said that ultrasounds were included for absolute completeness to ensure all facets of care are examined.

HSE Chief Executive Professor Brendan Drumm was also at Leinster House for this morning's Joint Oireachtas Committee meeting.

Dr Mary Hynes of the HSE has said that the 97 women who are being recalled for surgical review would be telephoned today to be notified about the issue.

Those women who are not being recalled will be written to.

Dr Hynes said it is planned that all the investigative work involved will be completed before Christmas.

Meanwhile, Fine Gael's Spokesperson on Health Dr James Reilly has accused Ms Harney of lacking compassion and has called on her to resign.

Dr Reilly said that he felt for the patients involved as he had seven sisters himself and found the news very upsetting.

Apologising for what he said was he his loss of composure, the North Dublin TD said Ms Harney now had to be replaced by a minister with true compassion.    

He told journalists he expected his party would now put down a motion of no confidence in the minister.


Ms Harney told the committee that Dr Ann O'Doherty, who is carrying out a review of 3,000 mammograms from the Midlands Regional Hospital, is the most qualified and most eminent breast radiologist in Ireland.

Ms Harney said Dr O'Doherty and her team had reviewed over 3,000 mammograms and had diagnosed nine cancer cases.

The minister said it was important to make sure that none of the women who had been reassured by her had any need to worry.

Ms Harney said she regretted very much that Dr O'Doherty was drawn into things in the course of political dialogue.

In relation to cancer policy, Ms Harney said what had now been agreed on was a sea change in Ireland.

She said Prof Tom Keane, the new director of the National Cancer Control Programme, had the full support of the Government in implementing the programme.

The Minister said there was an onus on everyone now to support Prof Keane and said political factors could not come before patient care.

Professor Brendan Drumm revealed that around 39,000 patients were on waiting lists for either inpatient or day case hospital treatment at the end of September.

He said that while the figures may seem high, they are not in relation to the workload of hospitals.

He said that just under half of those waiting were waiting less than three months.

The HSE helpline number for women in the midlands concerned over this recent cancer scare is 1800 252 041.