Fertility clinic closes after patients became ill
A private fertility clinic in Belfast failed to notify the authorities when a woman reacted adversely to treatment, the BBC has learned.
The company is voluntarily closing for a fortnight in order to put proper systems in place.
The temporary closure of Origin Fertility Care follows an inspection by the Regulatory body, the RQIA.
It lists a number of faults including a failure to alert authorities when women became ill after treatment.
It also was not updating patients' records, including their test results.
Origin managing director Jenny Hall said that while no sperm or embryos have been lost or damaged, the company was still at fault.
Around 100 clients have been directly affected.
Their treatment has been postponed and several people have cancelled their contracts and money has been refunded.
Ms Hall said: "We have recognised that we have some problems within the clinic that we need to address and, in discussion with our regulators, we have decided that the best way to do that properly, is to close the clinic for two weeks.
"Certain incidents and events that happened within the clinic must be reported to our regulators and for several months we have not been reporting correctly, to the RQIA (Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority) in particular, some of the incidents that have happened within the clinic."
Ms Hall said the incidents had "mainly been administrative".
"The company does accept full responsibility for the situation that we now find ourselves in and that is why we have taken such a drastic measure and volunteered the closure to address the problems."
The RQIA first became aware of problems last June. Several 'failure to comply' notices were imposed on the company.
The national body, the HFEA (Human Fertilisation Embryology Authority), was also notified. It noted that the management and reporting of incidents had been a concern at the centre for some time.
At least two action plans have been submitted since September 2011 and a third one is currently underway.
In September 2011, the RQIA issued a condition on the centre's registration which stated that the person responsible in the company for notifying the authorities about adverse incidents should do so within 24 hours of them occurring.
This was a serious breach of Health Care regulations (Northern Ireland) 2005.
The female manager who was responsible for the above action underwent a disciplinary hearing and was later dismissed in April 2012.
The company is attempting to correct its various procedures, including management structures.
A two-week intensive training programme is underway which means the business has closed temporarily.
The managing director admits the action to temporary close is serious, because the failings were serious.
Among the failings were a failure to update records and to notify the authorities when a woman reacted adversely to treatment.
When a woman is under going fertility treatment, she can hyper-stimulate which can cause her ovaries to swell and sometimes erupt.
This is extremely painful and requires immediate action. Normally the woman is hospitalised.
The RQIA and the HFEA must be notified of these so-called adverse incidents.
The company said it was optimistic that it would open for business again on 25 June.
It employs 24 staff and has approximately 5,000 clients.