Doctor displayed ‘gross lack of knowledge’, inquiry hears

© The Irish Times

A doctor displayed a “gross lack of knowledge” regarding theatre protocol, a disciplinary inquiry has heard.

An alleged instance in which Dr Omar Hassan mistook an X-ray image of an ankle for that of an elbow was “unbelievable”, a renowned orthopaedic surgeon also claimed.

Prof John McElwain also told the ongoing proceedings at the Medical Council in Dublin that he had “every reason to believe” the allegations made against Dr Hassan by former colleagues.

Prof McElwain, who continued his evidence from Thursday, argued again on Friday that a large number of the allegations against Dr Hassan constituted poor professional performance and professional misconduct.

Dr Hassan (30), faces a number of allegations relating to time he spent working as a senior house officer at the Midlands Regional Hospital Portlaoise in 2012, Mayo General Hospital in 2013 and University Hospital Galway in 2014.

Dr Hassan, whose medical registration is currently suspended, denies the allegations.

The inquiry previously heard of an instance that took place while Dr Hassan was working in Galway, in which he wore inappropriate head gear during a spinal operation. Entering theatre, Dr Hassan allegedly put on a helmet that would normally be used during hip operations.

One of his senior colleagues expressed concern that Dr Hassan did not enquire about appropriate procedures, even though none of his other colleagues were wearing the helmet.

Dr Hassan displayed “a gross lack of knowledge of theatre protocol” in this instance, said Prof McElwain, who is Clinical Professor of Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgery at Trinity College Dublin.

The inquiry heard of an instance that also took place in Galway, in which Dr Hassan allegedly mistook an x-ray image of an ankle for that of an elbow, during a training session.

“To mistake an ankle for an elbow is a very, very serious matter indeed,” said Prof McElwain. “You teach that to medical students. The x-ray of an ankle and an elbow – there is no similarity whatsoever. It’s unbelievable.”

When asked about his general thoughts on the case, Prof McElwain said: “I have every reason to believe all the allegations.

“If proven, this man is guilty of very serious poor professional performance in many of the issues, and professional misconduct in many of the issues.”

Under cross-examination, Dr Hassan – who is representing himself – asked Prof McElwain whether human assessment is as reliable as exam results. Dr Hassan has previously told the inquiry of his academic successes.

Prof McElwain replied that when one is working as an SHO, it is not so much how well one does on exams but “it’s how you can relate to the poor unfortunate patient on the bed”.

Dr Hassan called a witness, Olivia Hutchinson, to the inquiry. She worked as a clinical nurse manager on the surgical ward at the Midlands Regional Hospital Portlaoise while Dr Hassan worked there in 2012.

Ms Hutchinson said she vaguely remembered Dr Hassan. She said she did not recall any major issues with him during that time, pointing out that he only worked at the hospital for a short period. “I can’t remember any major incidents during the time you were there,” Ms Hutchinson told the inquiry.

Friday marked the ninth day of the inquiry. A ruling is expected on Monday

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