Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wrong medical procedure a result of 'human error'

Irish Times by Fiona Gartland 19 September 2012

A CONSULTANT paediatrician who incorrectly recorded a procedure to be carried out on a 2½-year-old girl – who was later given the wrong operation – told a Medical Council fitness-to-practise committee yesterday the mistake was “human error”.

Prof Martin Corbally, who was a paediatric surgeon at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin when the incident happened in 2010, said he was “probably quite tired” when he filled out the letter in question and accepted he made a mistake. But he said he had correctly recorded the procedure on the admissions card as “tongue tie upper frenulum” and administration had not completed the hospital booking system correctly because they omitted the words “upper frenulum”. “That is where the error really lay,” he said.

“I would see 80 to 100 patients a week between my three clinics and I was not really remembering their names,” he said. He also said he had “no way of knowing” the procedure that should have been carried out on Baby X when she attended for surgery weeks after he had seen her in outpatients.

If the procedure had been transcribed properly by administration he would have remembered, he said. He also said on the morning of the surgery he had been very busy and had three patients in intensive care.
He denied his instruction to his junior “to release the tongue tie” amounted to poor professional performance. There had been a series of errors in the case, he said.

“To err is human,” he said. “Everybody can make a mistake.” Prof Corbally said after the incident, procedures at the hospital had been improved. He also said he was “deeply concerned” about risk in surgery and had taken a course in risk management after the case involving the patient who had the wrong kidney removed. He had also carried out a study about parental involvement in medical staff meetings ahead of surgery on children.

In earlier evidence, an expert witness for the Medical Council, UK consultant paediatric surgeon Hugh Grant, from John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, said he believed the transcript error made by Prof Corbally amounted to poor professional performance and “started the chain of events” that led to the incident.
Under cross-examination from Eileen Barrington SC, for Prof Corbally, who queried whether a transcript error could be poor professional performance, Mr Grant said if you call a lump on the arm a lump on the leg you are applying your knowledge incorrectly which amounted to poor professional performance.

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