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Concerns raised after Cork doctors, rather than radiographers, did x-rays on patients with coronavirus symptoms

Junior doctors at Cork University Hospital were left having to do chest x-rays instead of the radiographers.

CONCERNS HAVE BEEN raised after it emerged that x-rays on patients exhibiting coronavirus symptoms were carried out by doctors rather than radiographers at Cork University Hospital (CUH). 

Reports emerged on social media earlier this week that non-consultant hospital doctors (NCHDs), also known as junior doctors, at CUH were left having to do the chest x-rays on these particular patients instead of radiographers, who are specifically trained in medical imaging. 

The Department of Health has not confirmed any cases of Covid-19 in Ireland to date. 

In a letter sent to doctors this week, the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) said it has been in contact with CUH about the situation. 

“We have had it confirmed that the policy of having NCHDs conduct chest x-rays in the isolation room in the Emergency Department of CUH is historical,” the IMO said. 

The IMO added that CUH has confirmed to it that “this policy has been reviewed and that, from now on, such x-rays will be undertaken by radiographers, as is the case in other hospitals”.

It is unclear why the situation arose and why radiographers were not doing the x-rays. One suggestion on Twitter was that it was a policy designed to limit the number of people who came in contact with a patient who potentially had Covid-19. 

Director of the Irish Patients Association Stephen McMahon expressed concern about junior doctors taking over the role of radiographers.

“We’re concerned about the competencies of juniors doctors to take over the role of radiographers,” he said. 

McMahon said the issue should be referred to the National Public Health Emergency Team “for their urgent attention”. 

When asked by if the situation at CUH is cause for worry among patients going for x-rays, the HSE’s Director of National Services Joe Ryan said “no, not at all”. 

“There’s no reason for fear, everybody in our hospitals are trained if somebody does come in [with coronavirus symptoms],” Ryan said. 

“We put them in isolation, we observe all of the protocols around cleaning around those particular patients, the [personal protective equipment] is worn by staff … they have to clean again before they go out and go near anybody else,” he said. 

“So, all those procedures are in place to protect the patients and well as protecting our own staff.” 

A spokesperson for Cork University Hospital said:

“With regard to the handling of COVID – 19, management at CUH can confirm that local practices are being amended to ensure alignment with practices for taking CXRs (chest x-rays) in other hospitals.

“Nobody has refused to implement this protocol.”

With reporting by Gráinne Ní Aodha

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