Belfast Telegraph

Taoiseach regrets if Waterford remarks sounded adversarial

On Friday, new claims came to light that dead bodies had been stored on the floor of the mortuary at the hospital.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he regrets if comments he made earlier this week about mortuary services at University Hospital Waterford sounded adversarial in their tone (Brian Lawless/PA Wire)
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he regrets if comments he made earlier this week about mortuary services at University Hospital Waterford sounded adversarial in their tone (Brian Lawless/PA Wire)

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he regrets if the tone of his response to concerns about mortuary services at University Hospital Waterford sounded adversarial.

Mr Varadkar has been under pressure to apologise after remarks he made on Tuesday that there was no evidence to back up allegations that dead bodies had been left to decompose on trolleys at the hospital.

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 a letter penned in October 2018, the consultants said bodies had been left to decompose on trolleys and that it had led to closed-coffin funerals in some instances.

On Friday, new claims came to light 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”.

Speaking in Co Westmeath on Friday, Mr Varadkar said there were differing accounts about mortuary services and that he had no reason to doubt the veracity of any of the accounts.

“If that’s the tone I struck or if that’s way it came across well I regret that,” he said.

“I’ve always encouraged people to raise issues and if people have issues about the services they work in bringing them to the attention of management is absolutely the appropriate and right thing to do.”

He added: “The only thing I said in recent days is that there were different accounts and I didn’t want to be calling any staff member dishonest or questioning the veracity of anything anyone said.”

Sinn Fein has called for an independent inquiry into the claims.

Waterford TD David Cullinane said there were many questions that needed answering.

“How can that be the case in 2019 that bodies were left on the floor of any mortuary and surely the Taoiseach has a responsibility to establish the facts,” he asked on RTE’s News at One programme.

He said his concern was for the families who are left wondering whether it was their loved one that had been left lying on a trolley.

“We want an independent inquiry on behalf of those families in Waterford and the south east who deserve the truth and deserve the facts,” he said.

Planning permission for a new mortuary at Waterford Hospital was granted in 2016. It will go to tender later this year and the Government hopes to open the new facility in two years time.

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