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Irish hospital audits hundreds of scans performed by locum radiologist after errors are found

por John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | November 13, 2023
European News Risk Management Ultrasound X-Ray
Letterkenny University Hospiital (Photo courtesy of Saolta)
A hospital in Ireland is reassessing hundreds of scans after finding errors in more than one-third performed by a locum radiologist.

Letterkenny University Hospital, in County Donegal, operates under Saolta University Health Care group and relies on temporary physicians to fill staffing gaps. The unnamed radiologist was let go after working seven days due to concerns about the quality of their work, reported The Irish Times.

Following their departure, a senior LUH consultant reviewed the X-rays and ultrasounds they performed and found 37% contained errors. A Saolta spokesperson told the Times that a full review is underway and that “patients will be contacted with full open disclosure and appropriate arrangements put in place for follow-up care, in accordance with national policy.”

The senior consultant who conducted the review requested for the hospital and Saolta to do so but received no reply. He also told the Times that he received no response after informing hospital management of his findings.

“To date, I have not received a reply from management regarding the review of 238 X-rays and 66 ultrasound scans performed by this radiologist,” he wrote in a letter to management.

He and ten other consultants and 78 local general practitioners wrote separate letters to the Irish Minister of Health, Stephen Donnelly, in October, calling for an external review, saying patients were at clinical risk. They also said that the hospital was in crisis and close to collapse and that it was difficult to send patients to emergency departments with long wait times. Some have refused to go, preferring to “take their chances and stay at home,” reported The Times.

According to the news outlet, since 2020, only half of patients in EDs are seen within six hours and more than a quarter wait for more than nine. “We no longer have faith that the current system can be fixed and appropriately managed without outside intervention, support, and resources,” said the clinicians in their letters.

In response, Bernard Gloster, chief executive of the Health Service Executive, the country’s national health system, agreed to send a performance management team to evaluate LUH and community services in Letterkenny.

In 2018, University Hospital Kerry launched Ireland’s largest radiology audit at the time, of more than 46,000 CT, ultrasound, and X-ray scans, after a consultant radiologist gave 11 patients the all clear, only for them to later be diagnosed with cancer, which led to four deaths.

A 2021 review in Northern Ireland of 13,030 radiology images, also the largest there, revealed major discrepancies in a consultant neuroradiologist’s diagnoses, affecting over 9,000 patients.

Additionally, the country’s imaging fleet has come under scrutiny, with a 2020 report showing that at least 15 of its 59 total CT scanners were still in use despite being past their life expectancy dates.

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