Press Release

Statement by Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney, TD in relation to clinical examination and investigation into Breast Disease Services at Barrington’s Hospital, Limerick

“On 9 August last the Department of Health and Children’s Chief Medical Officer was informed by the Health Information and Quality Authority about its concerns relating to the adequacy of the management and care of 10 women who attended the breast disease services at Barrington’s Hospital within the last four years.”

“On 10 August, the Chief Medical Officer and Deputy Chief Medical Officer, on my behalf, met with Barrington’s Hospital and asked it to suspend the delivery of breast services. Barrington’s Hospital agreed to do so.”

“On 10 August also, the CMO’s office of the Department, at my request, wrote to the Medical Council asking it to consider the information HIQA had given and to take whatever action it deems appropriate.”

Examination of clinical care

“In the light of the above, an independent clinical examination is required into the clinical care of patients who presented at the symptomatic breast disease service at Barrington’s Hospital, Limerick between September 2003 and August 2007. The Department is in discussions with the Office of the Attorney General and Barrington’s Hospital on bringing this forward as soon as possible.”

“The Department has also asked Barrington’s Hospital to assess how many patients may be involved.”

“Work is underway to appoint the specialist team for the purpose of this independent clinical examination”

The Minister said,”The medical advice I have received is that this full clinical examination is appropriate in these circumstances in order to ensure the adequacy of the care received by these patients. If it is discovered in any case that this care has been inadequate the appropriate follow-up care will be offered.”

“I want to assure women that the clinical examination will be thorough, prompt, and of course, fully confidential. My hope is clearly that this will provide reassurance to women who had used the service and for most women there will not be a need for unanticipated new medical treatment.”

“Women who were patients for this service during this time should in the first instance contact Barrington’s Hospital.”

“At a policy level, it is absolutely vital that we have quality-assured care in all settings in the country, particularly in relation to cancer and other specialist services provided in hospitals. Patient safety and quality care must be the first priority.”

Wider Issues

The Minister also intends to ensure that any wider policy issues arising are investigated and that the causes of any problems identified are ascertained.


    • As indicated in her statement of 6th August last, the Minister received a report from the HSE relating to the misdiagnosis of breast cancer in a woman who resides in the Mid-Western region. The patient presented to Barrington’s Hospital, Limerick, initially in 2005 and again in 2007. The specific concern relates to two pathology tests performed on behalf of Barrington’s Hospital in University College Hospital Galway. The Minister announced that a prompt investigation into all aspects of this patient’s care would take place.
    • On 7 August, the Health Information & Quality Authority (HIQA) announced that it will undertake a review of pathology services at University College Hospital, Galway to establish the facts about this aspect of the patient’s care. It will also review as many additional cases as are required in order to reassure women with symptomatic breast disease whose pathology specimens were examined in UCHG over the relevant time period that they have been correctly diagnosed.
  • As indicated in the Minister’s statement of 6th August, concerns about pathology tests for one of the ten patients referred to by HIQA had already been raised. The Minister stated then that an investigation would be undertaken into all aspects of that patient’s care. Today she confirmed that this investigation will now cover any additional cases where there is any possibility clinical care may have been inadequate.

In summary, there are three strands to the work arising from this situation:

  • a HIQA review of pathology services at the publicly-funded University College Hospital, Galway
  • an examination of the clinical care of cases at Barrington’s Hospital over the last four years
  • an investigation into all aspects of care in any cases found where care was inadequate.