According to a new report, further improvements are needed in the governance and management of gynaecology services at Letterkenny University Hospital to ensure the safety of women using them.

As reported in The Irish Times, the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) has found that, despite extra funding and staffing to improve gynaecology services, weaknesses in the governance and oversight at the hospital still remain.

The report was carried out following complaints by women and their families in 2018. Some of the women suffered delays in the diagnosis of endometrial cancer and died with the disease.

According to Hiqa, the hospital failed to meet HSE and Saolta Group timelines for the review, testing and diagnosis of some women referred with post-menopausal bleeding.

Saolta Group, which includes the hospital, failed to identify cases where the hospital had failed to adhere to these timelines

Staffing issues

The Letterkenny hospital was also found to be struggling to recruit and retain medical, nursing and midwifery, and administrative staff which Hiqa says remains a risk to patient safety.

The transition to a new outpatient gynaecology service at the hospital was welcome, however it was not fully established and was working at only 50 per cent of its potential capacity.

“Despite the number of initiatives and measures introduced by Saolta group since 2018, Hiqa was not assured there were sufficient and effective governance and oversight arrangements in place to assure the quality and safety of gynaecology services, which posed a risk to women using the services,” said Sean Egan, Hiqa’s director of healthcare regulation

“Strong and effective governance, leadership and management is needed at the hospital and hospital group to ensure and promote high-quality, safe and reliable services and establish and sustain a culture of patient safety.

“While some measures introduced at the hospital had brought about improvements, such as a new ambulatory (outpatient) gynaecology service, revised procedures for the review and triage of referrals and a decline in waiting lists numbers for women trying to access gynaecology services, these must be sustained in the long term so that women who use and depend on the service can be confident about its quality and safety.

“If this is not achieved, the HSE should hold Saolta Group to account.”