Calls for Taoiseach to apologise over 'dismissive' attitude to Waterford hospital claims

Calls for Taoiseach to apologise over 'dismissive' attitude to Waterford hospital claims

Sinn Féin has demanded Taoiseach Leo Varadkar apologise for his "dismissive" attitude over the Waterford hospital morgue claims and launch an immediate independent inquiry amid fears the situation could be repeated in other parts of the country.

The party's Waterford TD David Cullinane urged the moves on Friday as revealed the concerns raised by four consultants at the centre of the dispute were mirrored in a separate letter to senior HSE finance officials last year.

Speaking at Leinster House as Mr Varadkar continued to refuse to apologise for his response to the crisis to date, Mr Cullinane said the Waterford morgue concerns will not be "brushed under the carpet".

Calling for an immediate independent inquiry, he said the issue cannot be "left in limbo" and that the public deserve answers on what has happened.

"I think people were scandalised when the first letter from four consultants was published and outlined in very graphic detail what was happening in Waterford.

It surprised a lot of people this was happening for so long and claims were made that bodies were decomposing on trolleys and that some families were not able to wake their loved ones in open caskets obviously shocked people.

"The Taoiseach needs to establish a full independent inquiry. Given the serious nature of the claims, we can't leave this in limbo," he said.

Asked if Mr Varadkar should apologise for his response to date, Mr Cullinane added:

"I think the Taoiseach should never have made the comments he made in the first place. How he responds to those comments and how he responds from the hospital consultants group is a matter for him. I'm not going to put words in his mouth.

"I certainly wouldn't have made the comments that he did, and I go back to the point that the Taoiseach acknowledged that he doesn't have the full facts."

Meanwhile, Mr Cullinane has separately revealed that a senior HSE official wrote to the HSE's financial group the HSE Estates office last summer raising concerns about Waterford's morgue.

In a short letter sent on July 12, 2018, by assistant chief executive of the South/South West hospital group, Dr Gerard O'Callaghan said "at the request" of hospital management he visited the mortuary last year.

I would have to say that I was appalled at the poor condition of the building and the obvious health and safety and infection issues that exist there. The working conditions for the staff are not acceptable, nor is it a suitable environment for relatives of the deceased.

"I am aware that the development of a new mortuary has been a priority for hospital management for a number of years and they have included the current mortuary as a risk on their risk register. I believe it is now imperative that this development would be given priority by the HSE estates department," Dr O'Callaghan wrote.

Mr Cullinane separately released a second letter from the four consultants at the centre of the dispute, who were unhappy with the response to their initial letter raising concerns last autumn.

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