Belfast Telegraph

Irish government backs open disclosures plan for serious safety incidents

Health Minister Simon Harris said that the Bill will now be sent to the Health Committee.

The Irish government has approved a Bill that proposes to make open disclosures mandatory in cases of serious safety incidents.

The measures would make it mandatory for doctors and healthcare workers to tell their patients and the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) when things go wrong.

The type of incidents covered by the new legislation include wrong site surgery, patient deaths, a serious disability resulting from a medication or diagnostic error and errors with screening and maternal deaths.

It comes hours after the Department of Health confirmed that an independent review of more than 3,000 smear tests, which was due to be finished at the end of May, has not yet started.

It is wrong to suggest that the Government has not been active on the issue. Simon Coveney

On Thursday, the Public Accounts Committee heard that the review will not be completed in time to help the Scally Inquiry into what happened at CervicalCheck.

Health Minister Simon Harris said that the Bill, which will now be sent to the Health Committee, will improve the way the health service responds to and manages patient safety issues.

“The Patient Safety Bill also addresses another key patient safety issue around the lack of regulation in the private sector by extending the powers and responsibilities that HIQA currently exercises in relation to public hospitals to private hospitals as well,” Mr Harris said.

“This will allow HIQA to set standards for the operation of private hospitals, to monitor compliance with them and to undertake inspections and investigations as required.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney earlier dismissed accusations that the government was “not active” in its commitments in relation to the CervicalCheck scandal.

Dara Calleary, deputy leader of the opposition, asked the Tanaiste for a timeline for the commencement and finish date of the review.

Mr Coveney said: “The (Health) minister, the Taoiseach (Leo Varadkar) and many others have prioritised the support of the women and families involved in the scandal since it broke.

“Many members of the House have worked with individuals linked to the scandal and will continue to so do.

“It is wrong to suggest that the Government has not been active on the issue, prioritised the support of women and families caught up in this tragedy or is not moving ahead with the commitments it made.

“It is important to state that the Government has agreed to move ahead with the report of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

“We have asked it to undertake a complex review which involves much accurate assessment and that is about to take place but the Government cannot impose the timetable for it.

“We must ensure that the review is fully accurate and has the confidence of everyone caught up in the CervicalCheck scandal and, more importantly, the women of Ireland, who need to know that we have learned lessons and fully understand why mistakes were made.”

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