Press Release

Minister Harney Welcomes HIQA Report on Cancer Services at University Hospital Galway

Mary Harney, TD, Minister for Health and Children, welcomed the publication today (15 July 2008) of the independent report by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) into the circumstances surrounding a missed diagnosis of breast cancer for a woman at University Hospital Galway.

A diagnosis of breast cancer was missed on two occasions in the case of the woman, known as Ms. A. She had been a patient at Barrington’s Hospital, Limerick and her cytology samples were analysed in UHG. The HIQA report finds that Ms A’s diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer was significantly delayed by the errors.

The Minister reiterated her apology to Ms. A for what had happened. She said: “This report again highlights the need for continued implementation of the National Quality Assurance Standards for Symptomatic Breast Disease Services which I approved last year. It also reinforces the importance of providing symptomatic breast cancer services in eight designated centres, a policy which we are pressing ahead with under the National Cancer Control Programme.”

The Minister congratulated HIQA on a clear and thorough report, and welcomed its conclusion that all patients involved in the review had been followed up appropriately by the HSE. She noted that HIQA had acknowledged the manner in which the hospital had managed the incident, which the Authority saw as a model of good practice for the future.

“I welcome the fact that HIQA has found close collaboration between health professionals, and strong engagement between clinicians and management in University Hospital, Galway. This is what must be expected from the Hospital, especially since it is one of the designated cancer centres for the Western region.”

The doctor who was the main subject of the HIQA investigation was a locum consultant, and is no longer working in Ireland. He has been referred to the Medical Council. The Minister said: “The system’s over-reliance on locums, and the procedures used in recruiting them, is now being addressed by the HSE. The HSE is implementing a series of measures to strengthen its procedures for recruitment in this regard.”

The Minister also pointed out that in January 2007, the Commission on Patient Safety and Quality Assurance was established to develop proposals for a health service wide system of governance based on corporate accountability for the quality and safety of all health services. One of its terms of reference is to specifically examine and make recommendations in relation to a statutory system of licensing for public and private health care providers and services. The Commission is due to report to the Minister by the end of this month.

The Minister said that the HIQA report again underlined the importance of learning from experience and of sharing the lessons across the health system.