Hospital offers ‘heartfelt apologies’ for failings in care of mother dying of cervical cancer

Mary Rushe

17 July 2021

A hospital has offered “heartfelt apologies” to a 35-year-old mother with terminal cervical cancer for the failings in her care after she was referred to it for treatment after a smear test.

A letter of apology to Eileen Rushe, the mother of a 14-year-old boy, was read to the High Court today as she settled her action against the HSE.

Her counsel Oonah McCrann SC, instructed by solicitor Michael Fitzsimons, told the court the tragedy in Ms Rushe’s case is that her smear test in 2017 was read correctly as abnormal but the hospital failed to properly treat her with a certain procedure which counsel said would have been curative.

In the letter read to the court, the general manager of Louth County Hospital, Dundalk, on behalf of the Colposcopy Unit and hospital management offered “my most sincere apology to you for the failings which occurred while you were under our care.” 

The letter added: “I understand that this has had the most serious consequences for you and for that I wish to offer you and your family my heartfelt apologies.” 

It said it appreciated that this has been a very difficult time for Ms Rushe and her family and it was hoped the resolution of the proceedings gives her some comfort.

Eileen Rushe from Co. Louth, who blogs about her cancer journey, said outside court the outcome of her legal action was “bittersweet “ and the apology gave her and her family some closure and peace of mind.

“Today’s result is ultimately the reason why I started this journey to allow me to focus on my fight against cancer and more importantly to provide financial security for my son Seamus,’ she said.

In 2017 my wonderful son Seamus lost his father John. That year our lives changed forever because of cancer and mistakes in my care. 

Ms Rushe said she believed the apology would help her move forward and focus on being a mother to Seamus.

“For this I thank the HSE. Screening programmes and vaccines save lives. I want to encourage everyone to participate in any screening programmes available to them and vaccinate their children, both boys and girls, against HPV,” she said.

“No one has to go through cancer alone and I’m so grateful to my family friends and community for the support, care, love and compassion.” Ms Rushe also called on the Government to act now to alleviate the worst impacts of the Supreme Court judgement in the Ruth Morrissey case relating to providing for care for children and families left behind.

Eileen Rushe from Termonfeckin, Co. Louth, had sued the HSE over her care after she was referred to the North East Regional Colposcopy Service at the Louth hospital by her GP in 2017. 

Timeline

It was claimed from May 2017, there was an alleged failure to diagnose or refer Ms Rushe to the appropriate specialist for the purpose of diagnosing cervical cancer and cytological cell changes went untreated until in December 2018 when she was diagnosed with Stage 3 invasive cervical cancer.

Ms Rushe, it was claimed, was deprived of the opportunity of timely and effective investigation, diagnosis, management and treatment of her condition.

After a smear test in April 2017, Ms Rushe had attended the Louth hospital in August 2017 where she had a colposcopy and a punch biopsy. This showed abnormal cells which had potential to develop into cancerous cells.

In October of that year, she attended the hospital again where she had a further colposcopy and a cold coagulation procedure.

A follow-up plan for review in six months time was put in place.

In May 2018, Ms Rushe had a repeat smear test and in October of that year had a further colposcopy and a punch biopsy. She was invited to attend for treatment. 

In December of that year an examination under anaesthetic and an MRI showed up the presence of a mass. A PET scan in a Dublin Hospital the next day confirmed a 6cm cervical tumour and Ms Rushe was advised to undergo radical chemoradiation therapy and brachytherapy. 

It was claimed there was an alleged failure to properly, carefully and adequately assess or investigate Ms Rushe’s condition and an alleged failure to give or procure any adequate or sufficient or timely treatment to her following her referral to the hospital for colposcopy in May 2017.

It was further claimed there was an alleged failure in October 2017 to carry out a procedure which, it was contended, would have led to a diagnosis of cervical cancer at that time.

Mr Justice Kevin Cross was told that negligence was admitted in the case. The details of the settlement are confidential.

Counsel told the court that as part of the settlement the right is reserved for Ms Rushe’s son Seamus to bring his own proceedings.

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