The misdiagnosed miscarriage saga at UHG took a further twist this week when the chairperson of the HSE West’s regional health forum revealed he was contacted by the family of a woman who was wrongly told she had lost her unborn baby 19 years ago.
Cllr Padraig Conneely said the patient however did not accept this viewpoint and sought a second ultrasound scan which revealed her baby was alive. This child is “healthy” and “working” today, said the former mayor.
He was commenting at a meeting of the health forum at Merlin Park Hospital earlier this week. It heard that 47 people had contacted the helpline set up by the local health authority in the wake of the baby scan errors hitting the headlines recently.
A number of Galway women went public with their stories after a Dublin mother made the news when she told how she was erroneously told by Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda that the baby she was carrying was dead. The Galway mothers were former patients of UHG and had sought second opinions after refusing to accept the hospital’s opinion that they had miscarried their babies.
Referring to the HSE’s Miscarriage Misdiagnosis Review Team [which will examine cases in the past five years where drugs or surgical treatment was recommended when miscarriage was erroneously diagnosed] he said some incidents occurred more than five years ago.
He stated some women who may have been in this position more than 20 years ago and did not seek a second opinion will never know the truth. Most patients, especially in the past, would accept the consultant’s diagnosis. However, in some situations this has been “sullied” and “tainted” and proved not to be the case regretfully, he said. He feared there may be a lot of incidents going back many years.
John Hennessy, the regional director of operations for the HSE West, said the health authority would be happy to investigate any cases being brought to its attention.
In a written statement the HSE said it is working with Ireland’s 19 maternity hospitals to ensure women with concerns about their care or treatment have access to information, support and reassurance. All contacts will be followed up and where required, records will be looked at to ensure that the care provided and diagnosis made was correct.
While a five year timeframe has been agreed by the review team in certain circumstances they will accept submissions from outside this period.
A key change in practice is already being implemented in all public maternity units. Consultant obstetricians must now approve a decision to use drugs or surgical intervention in women who have had a miscarriage diagnosed.