A REVIEW into gynaecological services at Letterkenny University Hospital has delivered a damning verdict.

The review was carried out by Saolta after being ordered by the HSE following a number of cases of alleged missed cancer diagnoses.

In all, 38 women in the past 10 years waited more than 100 days for a diagnosis or treatment.

The review found that patients who suffered delayed diagnosis were wrongly triaged and not booked in for follow-up appointments in some instances.

The review was ordered after allegations made by whistleblower Margaret MacMahon, a Donegal-born doctor whose late sister Carol’s endometrial cancer was missed for two years.

“With specific reference to the cases which triggered this review, the common theme was delay in diagnosis,” the report said.

“There were several causes for this including poor follow-up practices, and poor triage and administrative practices; all compounded by ineffective communication.

“In essence, it was a failure to individualise and provide a person-centred approach to the care of these patients.”

The report said that the women received ‘unsatisfactory’ care and described the triage process as ‘cumbersome, inefficient and represents a significant opportunity for error and delay’.

In an interview with The Irish Times, Dr MacMahon, said the report ‘glosses over’ the deaths of patients due to ‘this diabolical service’. 

Deputy Pearse Doherty has said that the report published this week is a welcome step in working towards the changes that are needed in the treatment provided to women in the Northwest.

Deputy Doherty said that the report highlights the need for immediate changes to the administration and provision of treatment in the hospital and the recommendations contained in the report must be implemented fully without delay.

Speaking this afternoon, Deputy Doherty said “I welcome the publication of this report and I want to commend the patients, families and campaigners who fought to secure the review in the first place.”

“The review is a damning indictment of what was happening in the hospital. It found that the service provided to these patients was unsatisfactory. In all, 38 women in the past 10 years waited more than 100 days for a diagnosis or treatment. This is not acceptable, and it caused untold hardship and suffering for many patients, some of whom have since sadly passed away.”

“The report goes on to state that all cases, in one form or another, were typified by delay. The reasons for which appear to be based on issues with triage, administrative practices, follow-up practices; all of which are said to be underpinned by ineffective communication.”

Doherty continued: “This review is vitally important to ensure that failures of the past are identified and rectified so that they never happen again. It is right and proper that the hospital has apologised to the patients and the families affected”.

“All of the recommendations in the report as they relate to capacity, communication and self-assessments must be implemented now as a matter of urgency. I am glad to hear that the hospital management has committed to doing so.”

“As a Donegal TD, I want to say to the patients, families and campaigners that my colleague Padraig MacLochlainn TD and I will be in regular contact with the management of Letterkenny University Hospital to ensure that these recommendations are implemented and that this report does not simply end up sitting on a shelf.”

The Irish Cancer Society has also stepped in to express its support for all the women, families and loved ones affected by the cases of delayed diagnoses of cancer laid out in the report. The Irish Cancer Society’s Support Line (1800 200 700), which is staffed by cancer nurses, is available to support any patient or family member affected by this Review.

A statement from the society said: “As a result of the tragic outcomes and serious failures experienced by women affected, every necessary support must be made available to Letterkenny University Hospital and the Saolta Group to ensure that adequate resources, capacity, clinical governance and funding is provided so that the recommendations in the Review can be implemented swiftly.

“The Irish Cancer Society welcomes the fact that some improvement measures are already underway, but has cautioned that the delivery of these must be underscored by comprehensive and regular audits and commitment to meet performance targets.#

“On behalf of the women living in Donegal, the Irish Cancer Society will engage with all relevant stakeholders to ensure that the findings from the Review are fully implemented, and that robust clinical governance procedures are put in place so that women can have confidence in their local gynaecological services from pre-diagnosis right through to post-treatment support.”

The Irish Cancer Society is seeking an urgent meeting with the Minister for Health and request a full briefing on the Review, the impact of the clinical failures on women’s health outcomes, the measures that have been taken to date and the timelines and resourcing being made available to Letterkenny University Hospital to implement the recommendations.