What is HSE hiding by keeping hospital kitchen reports secret?
DEMANDS: All inspections should be public
THE HSE has been criticised for suppressing reports of kitchen inspections throughout the country.
The Health Service Executive refused a request for open disclosure of hospital kitchen and canteen inspection reports under the Freedom of Information Act.
Representatives said that the decision to deny access to the information was made because the information was covered by "professional secrecy".
However, Dr James Reilly, of Fine Gael, said that the HSE should stand over all reports and make them public.
"I think we need to move to a new era of transparency and away from the long history of secrecy," he said.
"It's of critical importance. If restaurant kitchens are subject to inspections which may be published, then it's absolutely more important that hospital kitchens are subjected to the same rules."
Dr Reilly pointed out that FG spokesperson on children Alan Shatter moved to publish a damning report into the case of Tracey Fay, the young woman who died in 2002 while in State care.
"We have seen where reports are suppressed, delayed, hidden behind litigation and then we see the terrible tragedies of the support of children in care," Dr Reilly said.
"I can see that no good will come of the suppression of the inspections."
The information gained by environmental health officers while carrying out the performance of their original duties is for the purposes of "verifying compliance with relevant legislation and it would be a breach of a duty of confidence to release this information into the public domain" according to the HSE.
But Dr Reilly said that public money was spent on the construction, running and inspection of the kitchens and that the public had a right to know.
"We have seen other reports of cockroaches and rat infestations in hospitals," he said. "It's totally unacceptable."
Janette Byrne from Patients Together said that the HSE's failure to publish the reports raises issues about what is concealed from public knowledge.
"The HSE have no right to censor and restrict the public's right to information in an area or part of our hospital services," she said. "They are trying to promote service users participation and comment on one hand, while on another denying us our right to clarity and full disclosure. 'What are they trying to hide?' that's what actions like this make the public think."
Cathriona Molloy, from Patient Focus, said that the organisation would welcome the publication of all HSE inspection reports. "If it has implications in the public interest then it should be made available," she said. "Obviously the public will be eating out of the hospital restaurants, so the public has a right to know."
Separately, the Health Information and Quality Authority have carried out investigations into HSE run hospitals.
Marty Whelan Head of Communications at HIQA said that the association made its report accessible online immediately after it has concluded.