Ireland initiates extensive x-ray review

Errors in the work of three radiologists at three separate Irish hospitals have led to the review of several thousand x-rays.

The radiologists in question were locum, or temporary, moving from one hospital to the next with some regularity. All were employed by the Health Service Executive (HSE), which provides all of Ireland’s public health services.

The Irish Times reported that at least one patient had a late cancer diagnosis as a result of the errors.

Enda Kenny, Ireland’s prime minister (the official title there is Taoiseach), and Minister of Health Leo Varadkar spoke with the Irish Times about the news.

“There are clearly changes that are needed in the structures of the way things have been done,” Kenny said.

Varadkar, who was still learning about the situation when he was interviewed, spoke about the missed cancer diagnosis.

“It is a real tragedy for us,” he said. “We need to know exactly what happened.”

This is not Ireland’s first radiology-related scandal. In 2010, the HSE said almost 58,000 x-rays at Tallaght Hospital in Dublin were not read by a consultant radiologist. An independent investigation found that poor leadership, a lack of radiologists on staff and poor communication between management and physicians were just some of the reasons for the errors.

Of course, such problems aren’t exclusive to Ireland. Last November, in Central Alabama, leaked emails showed an understaffed radiology department struggling to keep up with its workload. Hundreds of x-rays went unread as a result.