UNDER fire health service chief Professor Brendan Drumm has defended the work of healthcare staff in light of stinging criticism by the Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) chief executive described recent comments by Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly – who suggested on Thursday that there was something “rotten” within the excessively “secretive” organisation – as “unfortunate”.
Prof Drumm admitted there was difficulty releasing records on patients’ cases, as claimed by Ms O’Reilly, but said the HSE was striving to be more open.
Speaking to RTÉ radio, he said there were strict rules about releasing details of “in camera” or private court family or childcare cases and this was to protect the sensitivity of families involved.
“We have been very much legally instructed in the courts that we cannot release this information,” he said.
Ms O’Reilly claimed this week that the HSE had led her office on a “sort of Alice in Wonderland” trip around the legal system in her attempt to access records of payments to guardians of children.
The Ombudsman argued that health chiefs were operating in a “parallel universe”, wasting tax-payers’ money and protecting their own interests rather than the public’s.
Prof Drumm pointed out that the Government was in the process of drawing up legislation to help the HSE release private records.
He rejected suggestions the HSE was over-secretive.
“The HSE’s staff have to abide by the law of the country. It is totally unfair to use terms like overly legalistic approach. We do not have a choice, an ‘a la carte’ approach to the law.”
In one case staff had wrongly handed over files to the Ombudsman’s office and were “severely reprimanded” by the courts, he said.
The comments made by the Ombudsman were an “unfortunate use of language” he said.
“The organisation is constantly improving its openness...can we do more? Of course we can,” he added.
He accepted that TDs had grievances over the quality of the HSE’s answers to parliamentary questions.
Sensitive reports on family cases would now be split in two with releasable information available in one file, it was explained.
“Up to this point and time, single reports were written and no country in the world will allow information relating to children and deaths to be released in a report.”
Meanwhile, the family of a teenager who died from a suspected drug overdose while in HSE aftercare this week protested outside the HSE’s headquarters.
Relatives of Danny Talbot gathered with placards asking why the youth, who was in care since the age of nine, died while under HSE care.
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