Accountability in health: HSE is a law unto itself

Today we report on two new cases involving the harrowing issues of the infamous ‘Grace’ scandal — where a disabled woman spent more than 13 years in foster care where she, and other vulnerable people were victims of abuse.

Last year, the HSE agreed a €6.3m settlement with Grace. The circumstances of these new cases have not come to light fully yet. Neither have the details of Grace’s terrible story, which is the subject of a commission of inquiry.

It is not necessary to be even mildly cynical to suggest that this commission will do sterling work and make plausible suggestions about how these services might be reformed and how the idea of real accountability might be introduced to the system. Sadly, it is not necessary to be even mildly cynical to anticipate that this will be the end of the matter.

This time last year, Health Minister Simon Harris asked for reports on how HSE managers performed during the trolley crisis of 2017. Set aside the fact, despite our horrendous history with self-regulation, that he asked the HSE to do this, yet a year later, the HSE has declined to share the investigation’s findings or say if anyone who did not meet the required standards had been removed from their post.

The HSE is a law unto itself and it will take an unprecedented intervention and change of culture to introduce real accountability to our health service. In the meantime, the next Grace may be in jeopardy right now.

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