Varadkar spouts the usual waffle in response to patient’s suffering and death

excuses-are-tools-of-incompetence-tj-smith

By Anthony Sheridan

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar was dealing with the latest scandal in the HSE which included the usual suffering and death of patients.

He said he sympathised with the latest victims of the HSE particularly with the family of the deceased.

He said there would be full disclosure.

He said he was concerned about how long the review was taking.

He said he was determined to improve quality assurance (whatever that is).

He said lessons must be learnt.

He said mistakes must not be repeated.

He said he knew all about the scandal since early 2015.

A journalist asked him how the investigation into the horror inflicted on Grace was going.

Grace…Who’s Grace?

Ah no, he wasn’t asked that question. But still, we know there’s truth in it.

HSE qualifications

So, Mr. X, why do you think you’re the best man to fill this high level position in the Health Service Executive?

Three reasons:

First, I have a first class PhD degree in spin. There is no situation, no matter how indefencible, no matter how horrific, no matter how damaging to patients that I cannot present as a progressive development in the health service that all right thinking people will applaud.

Incidentally, my PhD thesis focused on how to deliver apologies that can reduce the most well informed, most ardent opponent of HSE policies, to tears.

Second, my loyalty is completely and utterly to the organisation. I am prepared to do anything, say anything to ensure that the organisation is protected above all other considerations.

Third, I have abandoned my moral compass to remove any possibility of hindering the ruthless and efficient realisation of the above two skills.

You’re hired.

Senator Crown has lots of questions to answer

What a very curious statement made under privilege in the Senate by independent senator John Crown (See full statement below).

The senator makes extremely serious allegations not just against staff at St. Vincent’s hospital where he works as a consultant oncologist but also against staff in other organisations.

The senator’s statement is curious because of its timing.

Eleven years ago in 2002 Crown discovered that staff of the hospital had been deliberately and fraudulently charging private health insurers in respect of cancer drugs which had been provided to that institution for free.

He notified the relevant authorities, the Irish Medicines Board at the time. An investigation began but was inexplicably stopped and reformatted several days later.

And there, it appears, the matter was laid to rest.

Now, eleven years on, the senator suddenly feels the need to have the matter further investigated.

He claims that new documents that have recently come into his possession and the increased scrutiny of the Public Accounts Committee are the reasons for his new enthusiasm for an investigation.

But there’s something not right about this sudden enthusiasm for further investigation.

For example; senator Crown tells us that he has long been troubled, on many fronts, about how his hospital and other hospitals do their business.

That’s a wide-ranging allegation apparently covering many matters in many hospitals. We need chapter and verse from the senator on exactly what matters and what hospitals he’s referring to.

The senator also needs to answer some other questions; for example.

Why didn’t he pursue the very serious allegations of fraud in 2002?

Why, when the Irish Medicines Board effectively stopped investigating the matter, didn’t he report the matter to other authorities like the Gardai?

Was he the one that suffered substantial intimidation at the time? If he was, did he tell anybody about it, did he make a complaint?

If not him, then who and what action, if any, was taken by him or other relevant authorities?

Why, given that the senator is not exactly shy about speaking his mind on a whole range of matters, has he remained silent on this matter for so many years?

We need a much fuller account from the senator otherwise it may look like he’s a rat abandoning a sinking ship as the allegations of corruption and scandal continue to spew from the health/charity sector.

The senator’s statement:

It is a matter of record that I have long been troubled on many fronts by the way in which the boards of my hospital in particular and of other hospitals do their business.

I would like to personally disassociate myself and any research organisations that I have the privilege of running from any connection with St. Vincent’s hospital group or the St. Vincent’s hospital foundation.

It will become apparent that the board of St. Vincent’s hospital does not enjoy my confidence.

This began in 2002 when I discovered that members of the staff of the hospital had been deliberately and fraudulently charging private health insurers in respect of cancer drugs which had been provided to that institution for free.

I notified the relevant authorities, the Irish Medicines Board at the time, an investigation began and inexplicably stopped and was reformatted several days later.

Documents have recently come into my possession which I’m quite happy to discuss and share with the minister for Health because they refer to money that was fraudulently taken from the VHI of which he is the sole shareholder and of other private insurers.

Documents that show conclusively that there is a cover up conducted by the management and board of St. Vincent’s hospital in respect of this.

Substantial intimidation was brought to bear at the time the whistle was blown on this ten years ago but I believe in light of these new documents coming my way and in light of the increased scrutiny of the Public Affairs Committee it is now time for this matter to be further investigated.

And I’m asking the leader to bring this to the attention of the minister.

Thank you.

Savita Halappanavar report: A great relief to all, except her family

Oh what a great relief.

It seems that the draft report investigating the death of Savita Halappanavar shows that there was ‘a great systems breakdown’ among the clinicians and medics at University Hospital Galway.

The relief will not, of course, apply to Ms. Halappanavar’s family who will be devastated.

But all those ‘responsible’ will be relieved that the great Irish solution of ‘systems failure’ has been utilised to ensure nobody is to blame.

Next scandal please…

Tallaght Hospital scandal: No need for accountability

I wrote recently about the missing link that marks the difference between how things are done in Ireland and how they’re done in functional democracies.

When suspicions of corruption are raised in functional jurisdictions there usually follows an investigation by an independent authority.

If the suspicions are confirmed consequences follow such as sackings, heavy fines or perhaps a trial followed by appropriate punishment.

All this is done under the principle of justice being seen to be done and the whole matter is usually followed up with new rules/regulations to prevent such events from happening again.

All these stages of accountability are also carried out in Ireland with the notable exception of holding anybody to account.

The recent scandal at Tallaght Hospital, as reported in the Irish Examiner, is a great example.

Background:

The hospital is unable to explain why five senior officials received almost €700,000 in non-salary ‘top-up’ fees between 2005 and 2010.

Ernst and Young carried out a financial investigation last year as a result of concerns raised by the Health Information Quality Authority (HIQA).

The investigation found:

The hospital was unable to provide any documents showing why the large payments were made.

The hospital was unable to explain why the supplementary payroll, under which the payments were made, was set up or what approval procedures were followed.

Board members at the time provided inconsistent recollections as to the existence and approval of the fund.

One individual received €225,833 in extra pay. Four other staff members received €104.667, €61,250, €24,000 and 259.000 respectively.

This was all taxpayer’s money at a time when Tallaght Hospital was making severe cutbacks to its budget.

We have now reached the critical point where, in a functional democracy, stronger action would ensue – police investigation, courts etc.

In Ireland this stage is skipped completely and replaced by an excuse stage.

Significant management structure changes have been carried out at the hospital – we’re told.

The new management has ‘noted’ the findings of the investigation.

The external payroll system responsible for the payouts has been abolished.

The new board has appointed a new remuneration and terms of services committee.

The new board said they were disturbed and upset by what happened.

So, no further action, no police, no investigation, no courts.

And, we can ask, is the new board a genuine improvement on its predecessor. Will this ‘new broom’ sweep all the old habits away and act in a professional and responsible manner when it comes to accountability?

No, is the emphatic answer.

When asked if the five members at the centre of the scandal were still working at the hospital and whether any of the paid out money can be retrieved they declined to comment.

Or, in plain English – Take a hike, we’re saying nothing.

The only reason, I suspect, the board of Tallaght Hospital can feel confident in refusing to answer this most basic of questions is because of the missing link in Irish accountability.

It there’s no system of accountability – there’s no need to be accountable.

More power for James Reilly?

Independent TD Roisin Shortall was asked what will happen if the Health Service Executive (Governance) Bill 2012 is passed (This Week).

It will create a situation where there is no independent oversight of the biggest public body in this country with a budget of €13 billion.

It centralized controls over that body in the hands of a minister without the normal checks and balances to ensure probity.

Savita Halapanavar: A transparent and accountable inquiry?

The Galway coroner who will be conducting the inquest into the death of Savita Halapanavar, Dr. Ciarán MacLoughlin, was crystal clear.

The inquest would sit in early January. Will have over 30 witnesses and will run over a number of days.

It will be open, there is compellability of witnesses and they can be cross-examined.

We expect to have all witness statements taken by December 7th.

It will be accountable, transparent and we will get to the bottom of what happened

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If Dr. MacLoughlin is as good as his word then all the current and proposed ‘investigations’ will be unnecessary.

In Ireland, secrecy is always the knee-jerk response to scandal

Consultant obstedrician Peter Boylan does not believe there should be a public inquiry in the Savita Halapanavar case. He give two reasons:

Mr. Halapanavar is grieving for his wife and expected child, so he’s in a state of grief at the moment and that needs to be taken into account when assessing his response.

I dont think Mr. Halapanavar would agree with this patronising view.

If it’s a public inquiry it will descend into a bit of a circus because there will be misinterpretations of the evidence given which will be bandied about in the media.

Secrecy is always the knee-jerk response to scandal in Ireland.

In functional democracies like the United Kingdom public inquiries are the norm.

This is becasue functional democracies have checks and balances built into their systems. They have in place authorities that have the power to act independently of political power.

The Leveson Inquiry has just produced an excellent report within a few months and cost a mere £7 million.

British citizens from practically every level of society from ordinary joe soaps, to journalists, to movie stars right up to the Prime Minister himself were questioned in public, under oath.

The sky did not fall in and British citizens are likely to see some swift and real reform as a result.

In Ireland, there is no law enforcement authority with the power to act independently of the corrupt political system.

This fact lies at the core of every scandal in Ireland.

It’s the principal reason why people of power and influence are never held to account.