Leo Varadkar issues apology over mortuary claims
Four consultant pathologists wrote to the Health Service Executive last year
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has apologised “unreservedly” for failing to treat seriously the concerns about mortuary services at University Hospital Waterford.
Mr Varadkar admitted he “got it wrong” after claiming there was no evidence to back up allegations that dead bodies had been left to decompose on trolleys at the hospital.
Four consultant pathologists wrote to the Health Service Executive (HSE) last year stating the pressing need to have inadequate facilities at the hospital mortuary addressed.
The consultants said bodies had been left to decompose on trolleys and that it had led to closed-coffin funerals in some instances.
It also emerged last week that dead bodies had been stored on the floor of the mortuary at the hospital.
In a letter dated March 26 to the South/South-West Hospital Group, the four consultant pathologists reiterated their concerns about unacceptable mortuary conditions at the hospital.
They described “body storage on the floor of the mortuary” following a “surge in activity”.
Earlier this week, the Taoiseach claimed “there was no evidence” to back up the claims.
However, in a statement issued on Saturday the Fine Gael leader said he made the comments because of “conflicting accounts”.
He said: “On the one hand, a letter from four consultants making deeply disturbing claims about conditions in the mortuary and on the other hand, a statement from hospital management saying there was no evidence or supporting complaints to back up the claims.
“I did not want to jump to conclusions or to side with one group of staff against another without knowing facts or before an investigation was carried out.
“That’s why I said that I did not know if the claims were true or not.
“Over the course of the week, corroborating statements have come to light and complaints have been made that I believe support the views expressed by the four consultants. This is one I got wrong.
“I want to apologise unreservedly to anyone who feels that I did not treat this issue with the seriousness or sensitivity it deserved.
“As I have said before, my over-riding concern is for the dignity of patients in life and in death.
“It has never been in dispute that the mortuary is sub-standard and needs to be replaced.”
He added that planning permission has been granted for a new mortuary at the hospital while temporary measures are being put in place in the interim.