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Claims for Negligent Hysterectomy Procedures made by Seven Patients

Seven former patients of a gynaecologist, recently found negligent by the Medical Council, have made claims for negligent hysterectomy procedures.

The claims for negligent hysterectomy procedures all relate to the treatment provided by Dr Peter Van Greene at the Aut Even private hospital in Kilkenny between 2009 and 2011, and were made prior to a hearing of the Medical Council´s Fitness to Practise Committee last week which found the gynaecologist guilty on two counts of a poor professional performance.

The complaints against Dr Van Greene were brought by Helen Cruise and three other women who remained anonymous – Helen having undergone a hysterectomy at the Kilkenny hospital without the gynaecologist having obtained her informed consent before the procedure. Helen claims that the standard of treatment she received has left her with depression ever since.

During the hearing of the Medical Council´s Fitness to Practise Committee, Helen testified that the procedure and the potential risks involved had only been explained to her after she had been administered a spinal anaesthetic. She also needed six units of blood due to excessive post-operative bleeding following her operation.

The Committee – that has the option of fining Dr Van Greene or striking him from the medical register – also heard that Dr Van Greene applied for bankruptcy in the UK earlier this year and is currently unemployed. He was most recently employed at the Whitfield Clinic in Waterford while investigations were ongoing into the allegations made by the four women.

Dr Van Greene´s bankrupt status will not prevent the seven former patients from recovering compensation if their claims for negligent hysterectomy procedures are successful. Any settlements of compensation will be paid by Dr Van Greene´s former medical indemnity insurance company.

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Hospital Dental Care Claims Disputed by Health Minister

The Health Minister has disputed hospital dental care claims that up to ten thousand children each year are having teeth unnecessarily extracted.

The hospital dental care claims were made at the annual seminar in Carlow for dentists working in the Health Service Executive, where delegates were told that cuts in free dental care in Ireland were to blame for an increase in chronic oral infections, which in turn resulted in ten thousand children under the age of fifteen having multiple extractions under anaesthetic in hospitals.

Speaking at the seminar, Anne Twomey – president of the Irish Dental Association (IDA) – said “ninety-five percent of these cases would have been avoidable if they had been detected and treated earlier.” She added that the cuts had resulted in less education about oral hygiene being available and the undermining of a highly effective schools screening service.

The IDA said that it warned the government five years ago about the impact of cuts to dental care in Ireland, and claim that the cost of the unnecessary extractions would ultimately be many multiples of the money that had been saved. The Association presented anecdotal evidence that children were being admitted to hospital for IV antibiotics to treat oral infections while they waited for hospital dental care.

However Health Minister Leo Varadkar has disputed the accuracy of the hospital dental care claims. The Minister told reporters that the figures he has seen indicate that 3,600 dental extractions under anaesthetic were conducted on children under the age of fifteen last year. He said “I think we need to know all the facts before jumping to conclusions”.

Mr Varadkar also disputed the accuracy of hospital dental care claims that suggested avoidable extractions were five times the rate of the UK. “The number of publicly-employed dentists has gone down from about 312 to 300 in the last couple of years”, he said, “so there hasn´t been a significant reduction in the number of publicly-employed dentists”.

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Family Make Claim for Wrongful Death due to Medical Misadventure

The family of a woman who died from organ failure after undergoing a hernia operation have made a claim for wrongful death due to medical misadventure.

On 13th July 2013, Susan McGee (52) – a mother of two from Rush in County Dublin – went to the Hermitage Medical Clinic in Dublin for what was supposed to be a routine hernia operation. The operation initially appeared to be successful, and Susan was discharged from the Hermitage three days later on 16th July to be cared for by her daughter.

The following day (17th July), Susan complained of having an abdominal pain and feeling unwell. Her daughter took her back to the Hermitage, where Susan was readmitted for observation. Over the weekend of 20th and 21st July, Susan´s condition deteriorated and on 22nd July a CT scan revealed a mass in her small bowel.

Susan underwent surgery the same day to have the obstruction removed, but her health continued to deteriorate. Susan was transferred to the intensive care department of the Beaumont Hospital on 23rd July, but she died the following day from multiple organ failure caused by sepsis – the sepsis having been triggered by a C.difficle infection.

The inquest into Susan´s death was eventually held in June 2015. Dublin City Coroner´s Court heard that several errors had been made in Susan´s care, including a failure to report brown faecal fluid draining from Susan´s nasogastric tube and a failure to record Susan´s vital signs between 8:00am and 6:00pm on Sunday 21st July – three days before she died.

The inquest also heard that over the weekend of 20th and 21st July only one resident medical officer was on duty – Dr Lachman Pahwani. Dr Pahwani testified that he had tried to spend as much time with Susan as possible – aware that she was in a poorly condition – but Susan was one of 81 patients that he had responsibility for at the medical facility at the time.

Following the inquest, Susan´s family sought legal advice and made a claim for wrongful death due to medical misadventure – the verdict that the inquest had delivered. A spokesperson for the family said that a summons has now been issued and served on the Hermitage Medical Clinic.

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Organisation Calls for more Openness in Hospital Negligence Claims

The Medical Injuries Alliance has repeated its call for “Duty of Candour” legislation so that there is more openness in hospital negligence claims.

The Medical Injuries Alliance is an organisation that works with patients injured by medical mistakes to get answers about how the injuries occurred. Among the organisation´s objectives is the promotion of studies that help to understand the why medical mistakes occur, so that safety improvements in Irish hospitals can be made.

In order to meet their objectives, the Alliance has repeatedly called for politicians to introduce “Duty of Candour” legislation – legislation that would promote openness in hospital negligence claims by forcing healthcare professionals and Irish hospitals to admit when medical mistakes have been made, to explain why they happened, and to issue an apology immediately.

The Alliance has already issued a statement on its website that “the duty of candour in hospitals and doctors should be placed on a statutory footing, entitling injured patients to an accurate account of how they came to suffer medical injury in Irish hospitals”, and, to repeat its call for more openness in hospital negligence claims, the message has now been taken to the press.

Last week an article appeared in the Irish Times commenting on a cerebral palsy claim that took nine years to resolve due to a lack of openness in hospital negligence claims and alleged “stonewalling” by the Health Service Executive (HSE). The article concluded by saying that duty of candour laws were introduced in the UK last year, and that similar legislation is clearly needed in Ireland.

In response to that article, a letter from the Secretary of the Medical Injuries Alliance – Joice McCarthy – was published. In the letter, Ms McCarthy agreed with the comments within the article and made her own observations that many victims of hospital negligence are forced to take legal action to get the answers to the questions that healthcare professionals and hospitals are unwilling to give.

Ms McCarthy commented that patients who have been through the legal process describe it as a stressful and protracted experience, and she alluded to the recent “shabby episode” in which there was a disagreement between the HSE and the State Claims Agency about who was responsible for delays in settling a six-year hospital negligence claim. Ms McCarthy concluded her letter:

“Instead of blaming any particular State organisation, or indeed having different State organisations blame one another for the current difficulties, it is high time politicians simply acted to introduce a legal duty of candour in order to fix what seems to be a glaringly obvious problem”.

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