Doctor Who Lied About Ebola Nurse Temperature Suspended

30 March 2017, 17:31

Ebola virus

A doctor who lied about the high temperature of Ebola nurse Pauline Cafferkey was today suspended from practising for a month by medical watchdogs.

Dr Hannah Ryan, 31, took the temperature of Scottish nurse Ms Cafferkey as they waited to go through Ebola virus screening at Heathrow Airport, the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) heard.

It revealed the nurse had a high temperature of 38.2C - a warning sign of Ebola, the deadly disease which killed thousands in west Africa, where they were returning from having volunteered to help fight the outbreak.

But instead of raising the alarm, Dr Ryan in a state of ''panic'' agreed a lower temperature of 37.2C was to be recorded on a screening form, and Ms Cafferkey was allowed to travel home to Scotland carrying the ''highly contagious'' virus and putting others at ''unwarranted risk''.

She fell critically ill the next day, but survived.

All the medics were exhausted from their work and travel and desperate to get out of the airport and home to loved ones for Christmas, the hearing was told.

Dr Ryan admitted misleading other medics with the lower temperature being put on the form handed to the doctors screening at Heathrow.

While there were ''extenuating circumstances'' for her actions at Heathrow, her behaviour five days later was ''deeply deplorable'' the tribunal ruled.

When a consultant rang to investigate what had happened at the airport she gave a ''dishonest'' response to conceal her involvement.

Dr Ryan was described as an ''exceptional young doctor'' who had volunteered to work in ''horrendous'' conditions to help the sick and dying, and had made a ''one-off'' mistake under extreme fatigue and pressure.

She told the hearing: ''Pauline Cafferkey was my friend and someone I cared about and I was really worried she might die.''

Dr Ryan, who works at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, admitted wrongdoing but denied her fitness to practise was impaired, but was found guilty of serious misconduct after an ninth-day hearing at the MPTS sitting in Manchester.

Today Dr Bernard Herdan, chair of the Tribunal, said: ''Since the Tribunal is satisfied the risk of repetition of your misconduct is low, and their is no risk to patient safety, it has concluded that a one-month suspension will be sufficient to mark the seriousness of your misconduct and to send a message to the profession that dishonesty by a doctor cannot be tolerated under any circumstances.''

Earlier, the tribunal heard Dr Ryan and Ms Cafferkey were part of a ''selfless'' group of UK medics who volunteered for dangerous and highly pressurised work helping fight the Ebola outbreak.

But when they got back to the UK on the afternoon of December 28 2014 after two months away, the screening process by Public Health England (PHE) medics at Heathrow Airport was ''shambolic'' with queues building up in the ''crowded, noisy and chaotic'' quarantined area, the hearing was told.

Dr Ryan took Ms Cafferkey's temperature, which was 38.2C - a warning sign for the Ebola virus, leaving her in a state of ''disbelief, fear and panic.''

As the three medics considered the high temperature result, one of them said, 'Let's get out of here' and Ms Cafferkey's temperature was then recorded as 37.2C, the form passed to PHE staff and the medics went on their way.

In a telephone call from consultant Dr Nick Gent from PHE on January 2, the Tribunal found Dr Ryan concealed her involvement in taking Ms Cafferkey's temperature, telling him that it was ''normal''.

Later that day she called him back, sounded ''highly stressed'', and told him the truth.

Donna Wood was last year suspended for two months after a Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) panel found she was the one who had suggested putting the lower temperature on the form.

Ms Cafferkey was cleared by the NMC as her judgment at the airport had been so impaired by the developing illness that she could not be found guilty of misconduct.