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HSE boss admits Kerry scans ‘a serious issue’

HSE director general Tony O’Brien has described the Kerry University Hospital scans controversy as “a serious issue”, writes Evelyn Ring.

Mr O’Brien said that around 20,000 images had already been checked before the lookback became public and there had been 700 follow-up clinical reviews.

He pointed out that the review of 46,000 patient scans that began in October had found “five serious reportable events and five serious incidents”.

Mr O’Brien described it as a “quality assurance process” that was being carried out effectively and efficiently and in a way that was in the best interests of the patients concerned.

Mr O’Brien said the doctor at the centre of the scans controversy had been referred to the Medical Council, so it was a serious issue.

He believed the hospital group, who would give an update today, had responded appropriately, and in a way that managed the interests of the patients in the best way possible.

“At all stages where concerns were identified, they were appropriately escalated right up to highest levels of the HSE in order to provide the resources for this review.”

Mr O’Brien said he was told about the “clinically informed” decision to review the scans in October but felt making it public would have caused fear and alarm to the 26,700 patients involved.

He expected that the process would be complete early in January.

Health Minister, Simon Harris, said hospital management had adopted the “precautionary principle” of making sure that the widest number of possible scans were reviewed.

“I am heartened by the comments of clinicians in the Kerry area who have largely welcomed the way hospital management have handled that situation,” said Mr Harris.

He felt that if the review had been handled in any way differently, it could have caused unnecessary alarm.

Mr Harris said he was happy that hospital management put in place a very robust procedure to conduct the review.

However, he wanted to support the effort by having additional radiologists involved, which now meant that the review would be completed in about six weeks rather than 10.

This story originally appeared in the Irish Examiner.