The Health Service Executive (HSE) is today trawling through medical records to find out how many patients may have been exposed to Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), a rare brain disease.
CJD is often referred to as the human form of mad cow disease and is a fatal and incurable form of dementia. RTÉ have reported that the disease normally causes dementia, coma and then death within a year.
The Head of Health Protection with the HSE spoke to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland and advised that approximately ten to 20 people are at risk.
The investigation has been launched following concerns that surgical instruments were used on patients after they were previously used on a patient later diagnosed with CJD. Normal sterilisation techniques are not sufficient to decontaminate equipment used on persons with the disease and much more rigorous procedure or the destruction of the equipment is required.
RTÉ reports that the patient was not diagnosed with CJD until two weeks after the operation, which was undertaken at Beaumont Hospital, and the equipment had been used on other patients in the meantime.
This incident raises questions as to whether or not the HSE may have been negligent. While a Hospital does not undertake to perform medical services, it does undertake to provide appropriate medical services by appropriate medical personnel in a competently run hospital. A Hospital owes a number of duties to patients of that Hospital and the HSE (in the context of public hospitals) has an overall responsibility to up hold these duties:
1. To provide a safe place and system for the provision of medical services or;
2. To staff the hospital with appropriate medical personnel or;
3. To provide access to safe and appropriate medical systems or devices.