With faith in the health service at “dangerously low” levels, the HSE director general, Tony O’Brien, must go, said Renua Ireland leader Lucinda Creighton.
She said he should step down because of “ongoing catalogues of chaos” in hospitals in Portlaoise and Cavan.
“When private companies fail accountability starts at head office rather than the ground floor,” she said.
“However, uniquely amongst mature democracies, Ireland appears to be the one state where the buck never reaches the bosses’ desk.”
She said the HSE had a responsibility to keep its patients safe but had failed to live up to this.
Referring to the baby deaths at Portlaoise and Cavan hospitals, she said it was time a “proportionate price” was paid by senior management.
Ms Creighton made her comments in the wake of the appearance at yesterday’s Oireachtas health committee meeting by parents of babies who died at Midland’s Regional Hospital, Portlaoise.
Amy Delahunt, mother of baby Mary Kate who died at the hospital in 2013, told the committee the director general must stop misinforming the public the events were before his time with the HSE.
Mark Molloy, father of baby Mark, who died in January 2012, said there would appear to have been “an attempt at both local and national level to suppress repeated known red flags, which perpetuated failings leading to repeated deaths and injuries at a huge emotional, physical and financial cost to families and parents”.
Ms Creighton said there had been massive failings at all levels — local, regional, and national — and correspondence between the families and the HSE in which they implored Mr O’Brien to investigate matters at Portlaoise.
“How can you say that you weren’t there; that you were not responsible; that you had nothing to do with it when we know that other deaths occurred in 2013 after these appeals by the Molloys directly to you as director general of the HSE,” she said.
Mr O’Brien said he had warned the Department of Health in 2013 that there was a need to renew the focus on quality and safety. However, years of cutbacks meant that the situation could not be turned around quickly.
Committee chairman Jerry Buttimer said the way some families were treated lacked human decency.
Mr O’Brien said he absolutely accepted the families were treated badly.
“Nobody here is seeking to explain or excuse any of that but that does not mean that we should not also talk about some of the resource issues that affected Portlaoise hospital or other hospitals. It would be unfortunate if we got into a situation that because there was an inexplicable, inexcusable breakdown in compassion and care, that that is the only discussion we need to have because it’s not.”
He said there would be accountability at the end of a external investigation to find out why issues were not passed to those higher up. That process would take about three months from “start to finish”.
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