High Court cancels registration of doctor who worked in Limerick maternity hospital

A doctor who for a time worked at University Maternity Hospital Limerick (UMHL) has had his registration cancelled by the High Court.

High Court President, Ms Justice Mary Irvine, noted the cancellation of the registration of Dr Francis Chijioke Megwa, who had been a senior house officer in Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the Limerick Hospital four years ago, was due to a lack of expertise. Dr Megwa worked at UMHL for five weeks until August 2018 when his employment was terminated.

Ms Justice Irvine this week pointed out it was not proposed to have any prohibition of the doctor’s right to apply for the restoration of his name on the register.

“The reason for the sanction of cancellation, in this case, was due to the doctor’s lack of expertise. This can be remedied and is to be distinguished from a situation where a registration is cancelled because of some gross misconduct going to the character of the doctor and as such is harder to remedy,” she said.

Ms Justice Irvine said Dr Megwa may apply at any time to have his registration restored once he satisfies the Medical Council in respect of his training and competence.

The judge added: “Furthermore the Medical Council encouraged Dr Megwa to seek to remedy his deficits as soon as possible and highlighted the fact that it had found no impropriety, dishonesty or improper conduct on his part.” 

Dr Megwa was the subject of an inquiry by the Irish Medical Council over the five weeks he spent working as a senior house officer at UMHL before his employment was terminated by the hospital in August 2018 following two complaints by other healthcare staff.

Ms Justice Irvine said the allegations that were proven as to fact included that the doctor failed to demonstrate basic competency in relation to taking or analysing the patient’s clinical history. He also failed to demonstrate basic competency in understanding the diagnostic significance of patterns of symptoms or physical signs and identifying a differential diagnosis.

An inquiry was held last year and the Fitness to Practise Committee found the allegations amounted to poor professional performance. The Committee recommended a number of conditions be attached to the doctor’s registration, including that he complete an internship or further training under supervision.

The committee, the judge said, made clear that it had considered all of the aggravating factors, such as the significant shortcomings in the doctor’s knowledge and abilities and also the mitigating factors, such as the absence of a professional misconduct allegation, the lack of dishonesty on his behalf and Dr Megwa’s full engagement with the disciplinary process.

Importantly, the judge said, the Fitness to Practise Committee also found that Dr Megwa was an honest doctor with insight into his shortcomings which he had consistently demonstrated a commitment to addressing. The Medical Council met earlier this year to consider the issue of sanction and it was decided to cancel the doctor’s registration.

The judge said the Medical Council formed the opinion that it would be challenging to formulate the specific type of conditions appropriate for this case which would allow the doctor to remain in practice while protecting the public.

Ms Justice Irvine said the Medical Council had concluded that the conditions proposed by the Fitness to Practise Committee were unworkable and in effect would amount to the cancellation of the doctor’s registration as the conditions involved the possibility of him continuing to practise in an intern post, which was not possible.

The judge said she saw no good reason not to confirm the cancellation of the doctor’s registration.

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