Waited over a year for cancer diagnosis at LUH

A WOMAN whose mother had a delayed cancer diagnosis at Letterkenny University Hospital (LUH) has said the failings in the gynaecology department are on a par with the cervical check scandal. Sinéad Ní Bhaoill was speaking to the Donegal News yesterday about her late mother, Bridget Boyle from Dungloe who waited over a year for her diagnosis after presenting to the hospital with postmenopausal bleeding in April 2017. It was not until June 2018 that her cancer was diagnosed and by that stage it had spread.
After being seen at the post menopausal bleeding clinic Bridget’s referral was marked urgent but it took a month and sixteen days to be given an ultrasound.
“At that ultrasound they didn’t really find anything. There wasn’t any further tests done and so they let her go and on December 12, nine months after her first GP referral she had her first D&C (a procedure to remove tissue from inside the uterus). There were concerning histology findings from that,” said Sinéad.
“From those findings they recommended a second D&C be done in the coming weeks and it wasn’t done until another two months at which point they found cancer and it took them a further month to notify my mother. Throughout the entire thing there was no sense of urgency. My mother was a number to them, going through the system but to us she was someone very important.”
In August Sinéad received a report about her mother’s treatment which found she had waited too long. Unhappy with its contents and lack of accountability she is now seeking an independent external review. The failings in her mother’s case did not become clear to Sinéad until she found notes on her mother’s treatment when clearing out her house after her death.
“Mum having been a nurse was really fastidious about keeping her notes and so when I cleared out Mum’s house after she died, I didn’t have the energy to look at those notes but I took them with me thinking these will be important. When I looked through them it was really glaring that she had been through the system for a year previous before anything happened. It was devastating, it was worrying. When I read through those notes it was really obvious something wasn’t right and that is when I asked for the review.”

The late Bridget Boyle from Dungloe

Sinéad’s story follows on from several other families who have gone public after a loved one experienced a delayed diagnosis at the hospital. The first was Bristol based Consultant, Dr Margaret MacMahon who has led a campaign for answers after her own sister died at the hospital.
Last October the HSE agreed to carry out a review of the safety and quality of gynaecology services at LUH. This led to the publication of a damning report in August which found women were wrongly triaged and not booked in for follow up appointments resulting in their cancers not being discovered.
The review looked at cases between 2010 and 2019 where women suffered a suspected, missed or delayed diagnosis of endometrial cancer. It found there were 133 women diagnosed with endometrial cancer over that period and 38 of these patients had to wait longer than 100 days for diagnosis or treatment. The hospital has since contacted patients or families that were waiting longer than 100 days and offered to meet them and provide them with a copy of a report into their loved one’s care.
Speaking about her reaction when she read her mother’s report Sinéad said: “It was completely devastated reading it. I was angry and devastated and it took me a good two weeks to really pick myself back up after that because it really floored me. I thought Saolta were external but they are not. There are some failings in the report. I am not entirely happy with it and I am looking for an external review myself.
“The thing is cancers are being missed, we know that. Their report admits that. There is not enough in the report, there is no accountability as such but they know that the department is failing and they were aware of that from 2015 when Margaret MacMahon had been making them aware and that is one of things that made me so angry.”
There has been growing pressure on the HSE to carry out an independent review into not only the gynaecology service at LUH but also across all departments.
Sinéad, who was speaking to us from Toronto, said an independent review is needed with a particular focus on women’s services.
“There is so much that needs to be done to improve that department. They need to have accountability for the women who have gone through and are going through those services right now.”


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