Thursday 14 December 2017

12 cases of bowel cancer missed at Wexford General

By Esther Hayden

Wexford General Hospital.
Wexford General Hospital.

Twelve patients at Wexford General who were wrongly given all-clear for bowel cancer have been diagnosed with the disease, including a man who has now died of the illness.

The missed cancers have emerged following a recall of 600 patients who had colonoscopies - an invasive investigation of the large bowel - at Wexford General Hospital in 2013 and 2014.

One of the patients has died of bowel cancer and others are being treated for the disease.

The recall of hundreds of patients followed a discovery by BowelScreen, the national bowel screening programme for people aged 60 to 69.

It found that  two patients who had a colonoscopy procedure in Wexford General Hospital in 2013 were discovered to have cancer in October and November 2014.

The recall of patients, prompted by the two cases, meant that some 600 patients were called back for a re-test.

BowelScreen said that  up to the 'end of 2014' two cases of  cancer between the regular two-year screening gap were reported.

The specialist who carried out the colonoscopies was placed on paid leave and is no longer carrying out the procedure.

The Ireland East Hospital Group (IEHG) - which manages Wexford General Hospital - says the recall was managed in accordance with Health Service Executive (HSE) safety incident management policy.

In a statement, the IEHG says throughout the process, patients and their families have been provided with full information and follow up treatment.

The group says the report and its findings are now in the final stages of preparation.

They say the report has been signed off and will be sent to all parties before it can be published.

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

'He extends his sympathy to the families involved and in particular to the family of the deceased.

‘The Minister is also concerned about the length of time the review has taken.

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

Ireland remains heavily dependent on temporary radiologists because of the difficulty in filling full-time posts.

It is understood that the investigation found fault with some of the technique involved in carrying out the colonoscopy in Wexford.

Around 950 women and 1,330 men are diagnosed with bowel cancer annually in Ireland.

BowelScreen sends people in the 60 to 69 year old age group a letter asking them to take part in the bowel screening programme.

People who agree to take part are first sent a home test kit called FIT (Faecal Immunochemical Test) in the post.

They send samples of faeces back and they are then tested for the presence of blood.

The test results are normal for the vast majority and they will be invited to take part again in two years.

If the result is abnormal they are referred to the hospital for a screening colonoscopy to determine any abnormality in the bowel.

The colonoscopy is not foolproof but the missed cases in Wexford indicate that the failure rate was higher than normal.


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