Tuesday 25 October 2016

'Don't blame resources,' Leo Varadker warns HSE chief

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar
Minister for Health Leo Varadkar

Health Minister Leo Varadker has heaped further pressure on HSE chief Tony O'Brien over the Portlaoise dead babies scandal.

The Fine Gael TD has warned that all the failings at the hospital cannot be blamed on resources.

Evidence was heard from the parents of babies who died at the hospital before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children on Tuesday

HSE Director General Tony O'Brien said that there will be investigations under the terms of the HSE's disciplinary code into two different things which he said are equally important.

"One is the severe absence of compassion and the provision of dignity to parents and other family members at a time of really appalling tragedy and there is no excusing any of that and no one, certainly not me or any of my colleagues, would seek to defend any of that.

"But the second thing is there were warning signs raised and how those things were escalated and responded to, that needs to be examined, and I am talking in particular about some of the resource issues that occurred in Portlaoise," he said.


Mr O'Brien pointed to the significant increase in the number of babies delivered against a backdrop of, in some cases reductions, the overall resources available in staffing "which clearly contributed to the environment.

"If the current reality about what the HSE is to be accountable for had existed in 2011, my predecessors and some of my current colleagues who were involved at the time would have taken a very different approach to some of the decisions that were made, and in the future that has to be the case," he added.

"Patient safety must now trump policy decisions, must now trump an absence of resources," he said on RTE radio.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar said he accepted that resources have been tight in the health service in recent years.

"But a €13bn budget is still a substantial amount of money and the HSE has a responsibility to ensure that services are safe and to prioritise funding accordingly," Mr Varadkar said.

"I am actually concerned at any attempt to blame all the failings on resources," he added.

"It's clear that there were other failings in Portlaoise including management, professional standards and teamwork. No amount of resources can correct failings in those areas."

"I am not ruling out a public inquiry but I want the disciplinary process to conclude first.

Meanwhile, a Government spokesman last night answered "yes" when asked if there was full confidence in Tony O'Brien.

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