Belfast Telegraph

Leo Varadkar: I don’t know whether pathologist claims are true

The Taoiseach had previously said there is no evidence to back up allegations that bodies had been left to decompose on hospital trolleys.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaking after a special Cabinet meeting at Cork City Hall (Michelle Devane/PA)
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaking after a special Cabinet meeting at Cork City Hall (Michelle Devane/PA)

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has denied calling consultants at the centre of claims about inadequate mortuary services at University Hospital Waterford liars.

But he said he did not know whether the claims made by consultant pathologists at the hospital were “true, untrue or exaggerated”.

It came after the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) said it had been alarmed by the Government’s response to a number of consultants raising their concerns.

The organisation said it is disappointing the Government had decided to question the validity of the consultants’ concerns rather than tackling the issue in a timely manner.

It emerged last week that four consultant pathologists at the hospital wrote to the Health Service Executive last year stating the pressing need to have inadequate facilities at the hospital mortuary addressed.

In the letter, the consultants said bodies had been left to decompose in the corridors and that had led to closed-coffin funerals.

Sinn Fein has called for an independent investigation into the mortuary and post-mortem examination services at the hospital.

On Tuesday, Mr Varadkar said there is no evidence to back up the consultants’ claims that bodies were left decomposing on hospital trolleys.

Asked on Wednesday whether he believes the consultants were lying, Mr Varadkar said: “What I said was a statement of fact. There is a dispute about what the true facts are. The claim in the letter is that most deceased people were on trolleys and decomposing – that is what was claimed.

“It seems now that the picture may be a little bit more different to that and the hospital group has said there isn’t any evidence to support that claim.

“I don’t know what the absolute truth is, whether it’s true, untrue or exaggerated.”

The response in recent days from health service management and the Government is disappointing as it has not focused on the risks and concerns highlighted by the consultant pathologists. Donal O'Hanlon, IHCA

He said the only way to ensure the truth is through further investigation, which he said is now being considered by the Health Information Quality Authority (HIQA).

Mr Varadkar made the comments following a Cabinet meeting at Cork’s City Hall.

Dr Donal O’Hanlon, IHCA president, said the organisation “fully supports” the consultants and that it is clear they had, in the public interest, highlighted genuine issues and risks associated with the insufficiency of mortuary services.

He added: “The response in recent days from health service management and the Government is disappointing as it has not focused on the risks and concerns highlighted by the consultant pathologists.

He said a culture change is needed that encourages consultants to disclose their concerns about health service delivery risks.

“Otherwise the quality and safety of patient care is at risk,” he said.

PA

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