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HSE tight-lipped on controversial doctor’s references

Denise McNamara



One of the top executives in the Health Service Executive (HSE) in the West would not clarify whether University Hospital Galway (UHG) failed to seek a reference from a junior doctor’s previous hospital where he was let go due to concerns over his medical skills.

At a Regional Health Forum West meeting, Councillor Padraig Conneely again raised the issue of Dr Omar Hassan, who was taken off on-call duty at Midland Regional Hospital in Portlaoise days after his appointment before he took up a position with UHG.

Cllr Conneely claimed at last month’s meeting that UHG had given a glowing reference to Dr Hassan and he went on to work in two other public hospitals and a number of private facilities between 2012 and 2014, despite “not knowing his ankle from his elbow”.

The native of Sudan was found guilty of 28 counts of poor professional performance and six counts of professional misconduct in late January. Sanctions have yet to be handed down. His medical registration had been suspended before the hearing.

Cllr Conneely asked about a report prepared by the HSE for Health Minister Leo Varadkar on how the medical recruitment procedures had led to the junior doctor being employed successively by the HSE.

The Irish Times claimed the report found that UHG did not seek a reference from Portlaoise for Dr Hassan, who instead provided three references unrelated to his employment in the midlands.

The organisation planned to work with recruitment managers to set up a standard policy regarding references and Garda vetting for all non-consultant hospital doctors, according to the document.

Cllr Conneely said at the last meeting the Chief Officer for Galway Mayo Roscommon community services within the Saolta Hospital Group, Tony Canavan, did not give information about references for the senior house office.

“You said you didn’t know. I can’t get answers here. I have to read about them in the newspaper. It says you got no references at all.”

Mr Canavan said the issue was outside the remit of the Forum.

The Fine Gael Councillor said he took it by that answer that the HSE had not sought references.

“Outside the remit? It’s in the national interest. You have a doctor working in a public hospital who didn’t know his ankle from his elbow.”

UHG consultant Odhran Murray told the medical council inquiry that Dr Hassan mistook an x-ray of an ankle for an image of an elbow during a training session with colleagues.

Mr Murray also recalled an instance where Dr Hassan recontaminated his hands by touching a non-sterile area while scrubbing up, at odds with basic medical procedures.

Consultant orthopaedic surgeon Aiden Devitt stated that two colleagues had checked whether Dr Hassan was actually a registered medical doctor because he was “so far off the scale” in terms of his competencies.

Mr Devitt told Dr Hassan who was defending himself: “If you pulled someone off the street they would make a better fist of it than you did.”

The inquiry heard that Dr Hassan kept attempting to insert a tube into a patient’s arm even when unable to find a vein.

Colleagues expressed concern that Hassan did not appear to be aware of the importance of ruling out non-accidental injuries in children, and had suggested that a young child was a “fake” patient.

He was described as being “aggressive” and “intimidating” with one mother, while he caused a burn injury to another patient during surgery.

Cllr Conneely said he would submit questions on the issue at the next meeting.



Gardaí bid to identify body recovered near Mutton Island




Gardai have launched an investigation following the discovery of a body in Galway Bay yesterday afternoon.

A member of the public raised the alarm after spotting the body in the water while walking on the causeway to Mutton Island.

Galway Fire Service, Gardai and the RNLI attended the scene and recovered the body at around 4pm, before it was taken to University Hospital Galway for a post mortem.

It is understood that the body may have been in the water for some time.

Gardaí are currently examining a list of missing people in the city.

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Connacht Tribune

Gardaí investigate fatal Carraroe crash

Enda Cunningham



A man in his 30s has died following a road crash in Carraroe in the early hours of this morning.

At 3.50am, Gardaí and emergency services attended at a single car collision on a minor road.

The driver of the car, a man in his 30s, was pronounced dead at the scene a short time later. A passenger in the car, a male in his 30s, was taken by ambulance to Galway University Hospital. His injuries are not thought to be life threatening.

The road is currently closed and local diversions are in place. Garda forensic collision investigators will examine the crash site this morning.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Salthill Garda Station (091) 514 720 the Garda Confidential Line 1800 666 111 or any Garda Station.

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Land Development Agency rules out Merlin ‘land grab’

Dara Bradley



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Campaigners have warned the Land Development Agency (LDA) to keep its hands off Merlin Woods.

Local community group Friends of Merlin Woods said that the amenity on the east side of the city is not suitable for residential development.

It has sought clarification on whether the LDA has earmarked part of the recreational and amenity lands for housing, after it appeared on its online database of publicly-owned lands.

In a statement to the Galway City Tribune, the LDA said its database compiles a list of all State lands, not just land for development.

In relation to Merlin Woods, the LDA said: “Those lands aren’t included in the LDA developments in Galway. The lands database is a map-based tool which compiles all State lands and has no reflection on development potential.”

It came after Caroline Stanley of Friends of Merlin Woods raised concern that land within Merlin Woods had been earmarked for development.

“I’d be concerned that it’s marked as residential when it’s in RA (Recreational and Amenity) land. Some is marked ‘open space’ but some is marked as ‘new proposed residential’ on its [LDA’s] database. It makes us wonder why. We’d like clarity and to clear it up.

“The message we’d like to get out there is we need clarification, whether it’s a mistake on the Land Development Agency’s part, or whether it is an area that they consider as a residential area, which the community would be opposed to. We need clarity. It could be something that is in line for development later on, we don’t know, and we need clarity.”

Councillor Owen Hanley explained that the fears around Merlin Woods stem from legislation currently making its way through the Oireachtas that would strip councillors of powers to veto the transfer of land to the LDA for housing projects.

The Bill would also allow Government to direct what public lands – including those owned by local authorities – can be transferred to the LDA for development of social and affordable housing.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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