Health trust must discover facts after pensioner prayed for death amid horror of 'Third World' ward at Ulster
When organisations come under fire, a common defence tactic is to attempt to muddy the water. Instead of clear, unequivocal answers to specific questions, all kinds of extraneous issues are introduced so that the scope of the debate is changed.
The South Eastern Health Trust has adopted this tactic after our story detailing one woman's concerns about how her 98-year-old mother was treated at the Ulster Hospital.
In our comment on this story yesterday at no stage did we level criticism at individual members of staff. Indeed we were at pains to point out that many of the ills besetting the NHS at present is because of the intolerable burden of work that too few staff have to shoulder. For the trust to say that staff have reacted with horror at our story is incidental to the questions asked about the care given to the elderly woman.
The trust further seeks to undermine our report – and by implication the allegations made by the elderly woman's lawyer daughter – by describing it as one-sided.
This newspaper sought answers from the trust before publishing the story and continues to await a full response to the questions raised. Indeed, we are assured that the Health Minister, Mr Edwin Poots, is also eagerly awaiting the trust's response.
We also note that the trust says it is interested in understanding the true situation. While we fully accept that senior managers will want to talk to all parties involved in this case over the very serious allegations made, it seem premature for the trust to talk now about the true situation, implying that the daughter's account of her mother's treatment may be flawed. Surely the task of the trust is to find out the facts, rather than first criticise those who have raised, or reported, a serious issue.
This newspaper does not doubt the dedication of staff at the Ulster Hospital and has never sought to impugn their integrity. But we recognise that they face ever-increasing pressures. Did that lead to a situation where the standard of care slipped? We await the trust's answer with great interest.