Hospital storm over child bodies carried in taxi boot
AN Offaly hospital is at the centre of a storm after it emerged the remains of dead children were being transported to a mortuary in the boot of a taxi.
A witness who saw the remains transported on three separate occasions told of being left "shaken" afterwards.
The incidents occurred at Tullamore Hospital, in Co Offaly, after infant's remains were transported from Mullingar Hospital, in Co Westmeath, for post-mortem examinations.
"I think it's a disgrace. There should be a proper vehicle for that job. I think they need to show more respect for people, there must be a more dignified way of doing things."
Complaints were made to the hospital but no answer was received.
"It's something that is on my conscience and I feel people should know about it. I wonder how the families would react if they knew how their child was being transported," the witness said. The incidents first came to light late last year when one person witnessed a taxi driver dropping hospital charts on to a white box containing a child's remains. The box was in the boot of the car.
"I saw the taxi waiting outside and the driver was waiting with the charts in their hand. I asked if I could help, and was told they were expected. I was told they had a child in the car.
"With that they opened the boot and threw the charts back in on top of the white box. The child was in a white box in a black bag. I was a little gobsmacked to tell the truth."
Since then, the witness has seen two further cases where children were transported in such a manner. The HSE did not reply to questions on the practices in place at other hospitals.
However, all Dublin hospitals, including Temple Street and the National Children's Hospital in Tallaght, have their own mortuary facilities.
The HSE would not comment on whether an investigation would take place into the incidents. Nor would it give details of any complaints received.
However a spokesperson said: "The HSE is not aware of any expression of dissatisfaction from any parents. Where transport is necessary, the Midland Regional Hospital's have longstanding arrangements which cover local undertakers and, in some instances, local taxi arrangements. Both arrangements are undertaken in consultation with the parents and where necessary can facilitate the parent accompanying the remains of their baby.
"The HSE acknowledges that the death of a baby is a devastating event and coupled with the requirement of a post-mortem adds to the trauma experienced by the parent's at that time.
"The HSE staff ensures that parent's needs are managed sensitively," the statement added. The Irish Hospice Foundation called for sensitivity in such cases.
"It is important there is appropriate recognition of and sensitivity towards the remains of a person who has died -- adult or child. What is appropriate in many cases will be determined by discussions with loved ones such as the parents in the case of a child or young person," said Sharon Foley, CEO of the Irish Hospice Foundation.