18 March 2010 Edition
Tallaght scandal a fundamental breakdown
SINN FÉIN TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has described as “astounding” the fact that thousands of GP referral letters were left unopened or did not reach the consultants for whom they were intended at Tallaght Hospital. He said that the failure which led to GP letters remaining unopened and x-rays unread also exposed the “two-tier nature of our health services”.
Speaking in the Dáil last Thursday before it adjourned until 23 March, Ó Caoláin said:
“During Private Notice Questions on the Tallaght Hospital scandal on Wednesday I highlighted the fact that HIQA had been told of GP letters of referral to Tallaght Hospital being left unopened. I asked if this was being investigated as part of the HSE inquiry. Minister of State Barry Andrews gave no clear answer.
“We have now learned that thousands of GP referral letters were left unopened or did not reach the consultants for whom they were intended. That is astounding. It is even more serious than the 58,000 unread x-rays. It is a fundamental breakdown in our health services and a major threat to the health and safety of patients when communications between general practitioners and consultants are virtually non-existent.
“Where were the consultants when they should have been processing the referrals from GPs and reading the x-rays? Did they even know of their existence? Or were the consultants attending to their private practices? Was all this work left to junior hospital doctors? Are there neglected GP referral letters in hospitals across this State? These are huge questions in the minds of patients.
“The Taoiseach on Wednesday tried to excuse the absence of the Minister for Health & Children Mary Harney by saying that the St. Patrick’s Day events take place in New Zealand over the weekend. We now know that the Minister has been there since last Monday 8 March and will be there until Sunday week, 21 March. The Taoiseach has insulted the Dáil and the people and the Minister has done likewise.
“The Minister for Health & Children should be recalled from New Zealand. The Dáil should not adjourn until 23 March, as proposed by the government, but should resume next week for a full day with the Minister coming in here to answer questions and report fully on this scandal.”
On the wider implications, Ó Caoláin said:
“This scandal took place in a public hospital and the patients affected are public patients. These same patients must suffer massive waiting lists for hospital treatment. At the same time the Government subsidises a private health sector through tax breaks and through allowing consultants to work in both the public and private systems while being paid public money. And private patients can skip the queue provided they can afford the private fees for these same consultants. What has happened in Tallaght has exposed the two-tier nature of our health services and those services can be neither efficient nor equitable until the two-tier system is dismantled.”
Tallaght Hospital: Thousands of GP referral letters were left unopened or did not reach the consultants