Shortage of doctors in Ireland contributed to cancer misdiagnosis

December 3, 2007 by  
Filed under CANCER

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Imagine this: You go in to your doctor’s office for a cancer screening and go home safe in the knowledge that you are disease-free. Later, you get a call from stating that you were given incorrect information. That’s what happened to several women in Ireland in a scandal that’s rocking the country.

Last month, seven women who were previously given the “all clear” from a breast cancer screening performed at Portaloise Hospital were told that they may have been misdiagnosed. The women were identified after concerns over how to read mammograms prompted a review of 3,000 cases.

From the Irish Times:

Health Services Executive chief executive Brendan Drumm said yesterday that more than 40 women had been called back for detailed review, and, because 19 of those have to be finalised, the figure of seven misdiagnosed patients “could change”.

The breast cancer diagnosis scare prompted other Irish hospitals to re-examine their cases. As a result, Cork University hospital identified fifteen more individuals who may also have been misdiagnosed based on samples showing malignant characteristics.

In a horrifying turn of events, one of the women who was misdiagnosed had her surgery post-poned by due to an overbooked hospital schedule:

From The Independent:

A woman diagnosed with breast cancer after being given the all-clear has had life-saving surgery cancelled because there was no bed available.

In a further, shocking insult to those hit by the breast cancer test scandal, the woman earlier this week had her mastectomy cancelled at 6pm the night before it was due to take place.

The woman, in her 50s, told the Irish Independent she now has to wait a further five days for the operation to be rescheduled at St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin and that she is still not guaranteed a bed even then.

The disturbing revelation highlighted the suffering endured by hundreds of women who have been left completely in the dark over whether or not they have breast cancer.

It came amid further damaging revelations which showed the level of chaos engulfing our cancer-care services.

What’s the deal with Ireland? According to a leading consultant pathologist, it’s the shortage of trained physicians and resources in the country. From the Sunday Business Post:

Gerard Boran, the dean of the faculty of pathology at the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, said that adequate resources had not been made available to staff pathology laboratories, which are at the centre of the current breast cancer crisis over misdiagnoses.

The Hanly Report on medical staffing, which was published in 2003, noted a shortage in the number of pathologists working in Ireland. The report revealed that Ireland had 159 permanent consultant pathologists in the public hospital sector, while 280 were needed to implement the European working time directive and meet the recommendations of the Royal College of Pathologists in Britain, to ensure best practice and patient safety.

Looks like Ireland’s got some work ahead of them if they want to provide their citizens with accurate diagnoses and proper treatment.

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