HSE confirms 13 cancer cases were missed at Wexford General Hospital

Wexford General Hospital said it has worked with BowelScreen "with a view to ensuring that this never happens again"

HSE confirms 13 cancer cases were missed at Wexford General Hospital

Wexford General Hospital | File photo | Image: RollingNews.ie

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has confirmed 13 cases of cancer were missed at Wexford General Hospital (WGH) under the national bowel screening programme.

The Health Authority has published a report into the recall of 615 patients who had been seen by an individual consultant at the facility.

One man died of cancer before the recall began.

In a statement, the HSE said: "A total of 615 patients were recalled, 401 of whom following review were deemed necessary to have a repeat colonoscopy. Over three quarters of recalled patients attended a colonoscopy within one month of being contacted. 

"In total, 13 cancers were detected, including the two cases that prompted the recall and the case of a deceased gentleman who died before the look-back commenced."

On behalf of WGH, Ken Mealy, Consultant Surgeon and Clinical Lead commented: “We deeply regret this incident. Since notification of the first cancer case, our priority at all times has been to conduct a thorough and immediate review. Our first action was to identify, recall and treat all patients who may have been affected. We have worked with BowelScreen to strengthen governance procedures around this incident and shared our learnings, with a view to ensuring that this never happens again."

BowelScreen commented: "Screening is the most effective way to detect bowel cancer, including pre-cancerous changes [...]  Since this incident, we have reviewed our quality assurance indicators to ensure that all units and individuals delivering colonoscopy services on behalf of BowelScreen are doing so at the highest possible standard."

Background

Dr Kenneth Mealy of WGH outlined to Newstalk how the cases came to the hospital's attention.

"It was first apparent to us in October 2014 when we had two patients who presented with colo-rectal cancer", he said. "It became apparent that both of these patients had a bowel screen and colonoscopy check at Wexford hospital [...] Clearly, alarm bells rang."

Health Minister's response

Meanwhile, The Minister for Health said the missed cancer diagnoses appear to be isolated to one clinician and encourage people to continue to go for bowel checks.

"The BowelScreen programme saves lives", he said at the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTFP) Conference in Kilmainham, Co Dublin. 

"Bowel cancer is the second most common cause of deaths of cancer in this country. About 1,000 people a year die of bowel cancer. My message to people today is to absolutely utilise the screening programme."

Minister Harris also acknowledged that it was "an extraordinarily distressing time" for the families affected by the revelations.