THE HSE has apologised for the misdiagnosis of breast cancer patient Rebecca Oâ€™Malley, whose treatment was delayed for 14 months following medical errors at the Mid-Western Regional and Cork University Hospitals.
Full liability has been accepted by the HSE and the High Court heard this Tuesday that a settlement has been reached between the parties, details of which were not disclosed owing to a confidentiality agreement entered into by both sides.
Ms Oâ€™Malley, a mother-of-three, currently resides in the UK but was a resident of Ballina, County Tipperary, when originally referred to the Mid-Western Regional Hospital in 2005 with a lump on her breast.
She was still gravely ill when she fought the HSE to release information on the background to her misdiagnosis. Now recovered, Ms Oâ€™Malleyâ€™s case was investigated by HIQA and was instrumental in the reform of cancer services in the Mid-West and around the country.
Ms Oâ€™Malley was wrongly given the all-clear when in the care of the Mid-Western Regional Hospital in March 2005. A biopsy sent for analysis to Cork was misread and the correct diagnosis was made only after her GP referred her back to Limerick 14 months later. She ended up undergoing a mastectomy in London.
At the High Court this week, Pat Hanratty SC, for the HSE, said the executive admitted full liability for the misdiagnosis.
â€œThe HSE, their servants and agents also sincerely apologises to Rebecca Oâ€™Malley, her husband Tony and their children for the continuing impact which the misdiagnosis of Ms Oâ€™Malley has had on her and her family,â€ Mr Hanratty read from a HSE statement.
Speaking to reporters after the case concluded, Ms Oâ€™Malley said it was the HSEâ€™s â€œrefusal to acknowledgeâ€ the 14-month delay in treatment made any difference to her prospects of recovery that drove her to take legal action.
â€œTheir negligence has caused my family and myself so much pain and distress and I really needed that to be acknowledged by them.
â€œI wanted them to fully accept what they have done to me and my family and I wanted them to make some gesture of recompense and provide a meaningful apology.â€
Patients seeking redress for medical errors were confronted by a system that was â€œuncaringâ€ and had to spend significant time and resources in pursuit of justice. In such circumstances, it was difficult for patients who might â€œnot have sufficient strength or stamina to take on the might of a major public bodyâ€.
But Ms Oâ€™Malley accepted that the HSE apology may be a sign that things are changing for the better.