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Surgeons operated on wrong finger, kidney and eye

Surgeons in the Republic of Ireland have operated on the wrong body part, including the wrong eye, ovary and kidney, on 19 different occasions in the space of five years.

An Irish Independent investigation can reveal the "wrong-site surgery" incidents occurred in hospitals run by the Health Service Executive (HSE) between 2005 and 2010.

Surgeons also carried out operations on the wrong leg, hand and finger, and the wrong area of the abdomen and neck.

The HSE has paid out €185,000 in compensation to six traumatised patients involved in related legal action.

The revelations come in the wake of a case in Our Lady's Children's Hospital in Crumlin, where a boy had the wrong kidney removed in March 2008.

The youngster, identified only as Master Conroy, is likely to require dialysis for the foreseeable future, or a transplant.

Last night, there were growing calls for Health Minister Mary Harney to direct the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) to hold an inquiry into the new revelations. The figures were compiled by the Clinical Indemnity Scheme from a national "clinical incident" database called STARSweb.

In Ireland, hospitals are legally obliged to report any "adverse clinical incidents" since 2000.

In three of the 19 reported incidents, surgeons operated on the incorrect leg. On two occasions doctors operated on the wrong finger and the wrong tooth six times.

The wrong hand, eye, ovary, kidney and toenail were each wrongly operated on once. None of the blunders were fatal.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), wrong-site procedures are on the increase around the world. It says they are largely the result of miscommunication and unavailable or incorrect information.

The WHO said a major factor was the lack of standardised pre-operative process and the attitude of staff to procedure checks.

A spokeswoman for the HSE said a national policy of "Safety Checks" for hospital theatres devised by the HSE, HIQA and the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland was being implemented.

"The HSE is reinforcing all policies and procedures relating to safe surgery to prevent the occurrence of such incidents."

The Department of Health said legislation for the licensing of healthcare providers was currently being worked on.

A spokesman said HIQA was finalising draft standards for a system centred on safe care, effective care, person-centred care, leadership, governance and management.

But Jim Reilly, of the Patient Focus lobby group, insisted good risk management policies were the only way to totally eradicate the problem.

"A licensing system won't change anything relating to surgical errors. You need a foolproof safety system," he said.

Opposition politicians were also critical. "It is such a basic mistake to make," said Labour TD Jan O'Sullivan. "We need a failsafe system to ensure something like this never happens. The minister needs to get her finger out and deal with this."

Fine Gael's Dr James Reilly said an independent investigation should be carried out. "I am calling on the minister to direct HIQA to investigate this matter and make recommendations," he said.

Source Irish Independent

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