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More scanning error cases emerging
[Posted: Wed 09/06/2010 www.irishhealth.com]
More women are coming forward to reveal they were erroneously told following scans that their unborn babies were dead.
A second case where a woman was mistakenly told the baby in her womb was dead emerged this morning.
This follows the case in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda that emerged yesterday. In both instances, the women concerned sought a second opinion which confirmed that their baby was alive and subsequently gave birth to healthy children.
Meanwhile, the HSE has admitted that there are currently no nationally-agreed guidelines on on fetal scanning and other aspects of maternity care.
In the second case, Martha O’Neill Brennan, from Athenry in Galway, got a second opinion at the hospital after being told by her doctor that her unborn baby was dead. It was then confirmed that the baby in her womb was alive. She then gave birth to a son who is now three.
In the Drogheda case, Melissa Redmond sought a second opinion from a GP after she was told last July that the baby in her womb was dead, and it was subsequently confirmed that the baby was alive. She gave birth to a son in March this year.
In both cases, the mothers' instincts that the initial scans were wrong saved their babies.
Meanwhile, another woman who was the victim of scanning misdiagnoses in the north-east came forward today. Gillian Dargle told RTE News her baby's heartbeat was confirmed after she hd a third scan.
The HSE's own report into the Drogheda incident revealed there was faulty equipment, that junior doctors were not instructed properly in scanning techniques and that there should have been a second opinion available from an experienced sonographer.
Concern is now growing that there may be similar cases of scanning misdiagnoses in maternity units around the country and that there is no proper system for checking the accuracy of fetal scans.
There have been calls for an independent inquiry into the Drogheda case.
The HSE, in its latest statement on the scanning issue, said it had recently appointed former Coombe Hospital Master Dr Michael Turner as the national clinical lead in obstetrics and gynecology, and he will be seeking to introduce standardised national guidelines and care pathways across the country's 19 maternity units and early pregnancy assessment units.
The HSE admitted that there is a level of uncertainty around ultrasound scanning, especially in the early stages of pregnancy.
"It is rare but occasions occur when a scan will suggest that the pregnancy is lost but subsequent scans may show a fetal heartbeat. Therefore, repeat scanning is undertaken when appropriate."
However, repeat scanning was not automatically undertaken by the hospitals concerned in the Drogheda and Galway cases that have emerged over the past two days.
Fine Gael health spokesman Dr James Reilly said a second examination should always take place where a scan has shown a baby has died. He called for an urgent review of antenatal services by the independent health safety agency, HIQA.
He said for women who have gone through the trauma of losing a baby, new doubts and fears will now be raised.
"The HSE has failed in my view to provide reassurance so far and I am calling on the Minister for Health to make a statement," Dr Reilly said.
He said it was beyond comprehension that while errors in scanning pregnant women were emerging in the past two days, the Health Minister’s only utterance to date had been on sunbeds.
Meanwhile the Association for Improvements in Maternity Services (AIMS Ireland) says it has been corresponding with HSE CEO Prof Brendan Drumm since October 2008, highlighting the issue of consent-related practices within Irish maternity hospitals.
AIMSI said it has repeatedly called on Prof Drumm and the HSE to review service user consent policy in Irish maternity services and for the creation and implementation of National Guidelines for Clinical Practice in Maternity Care .
The organisation said it was becoming increasingly appalled by the blatant disregard for women’s rights, dignity and respect in relation to their maternity care. A National Guideline for Clinical Practice in Maternity Care would also protect midwives, nurses, and the code of ethics in which they practice, it added.
A helpline has been established at the Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda -1800 200 529. The HSE's general information number is 1850 24 1850.
The Institute of Obstetricians has issued a statement on the scandal. View it here
Read more on this latest healthcare scandal here
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