Report is a ‘wake-up call’ to health service

Management at Tallaght Hospital said a report into its substandard care of emergency department patients was “a wake-up call” to the entire health service and exposed a dangerous lack of leadership within the hospital.

The damning report by the Health Information Quality Authority highlighted a series of errors which ultimately contributed to the death of Thomas Walsh, 65, from Kilnamanagh, Tallaght.

Speaking after the report was published, the chairman of the interim board of Tallaght Hospital, Keith Pearson, said everyone at the hospital accepted the findings of the report and said steps had been taken to ensure similar mistakes could not happen again.

“This was a failure of leadership,” he said, stating that nobody would want to spend hours or days on trolleys in a corridor awaiting treatment. “For that not to penetrate the leadership of the hospital is worrying.”

Hospital chief executive Eilish Hardiman said she had apologised to Mr Walsh’s family and that all work at the hospital was now patient-focussed. She said the board was looking at “reframing its relationship” with the HSE, itself criticised in the report for allowing the old hospital structure to struggle on.

While the report looked at problems beyond those in Tallaght, Mr Pearson said: “It is appropriate that Tallaght should bear the brunt of criticism.”

He said the report should act as a “wake-up call” to other hospitals and to the HSE. “If it has woken a number of people up and reminded a number of people about that responsibility then that is no bad thing.”

Dr Daragh Fahey, director of quality safety and risk management at the hospital, said a training programme had been set up so staff could identify risk and ensure matters were brought to management’s attention.

Ms Hardiman had said it was “regrettable” that similar concerns raised by clinical staff at the hospital since 2009 and prior to Mr Walsh’s death had not been acted upon, while Mr Pearson said he was “astonished” at finding out that the old board often met and took decisions with no clinician present.

Steps taken to shore up safety at the hospital since the inquiry began 11 months ago include nobody being accommodated in a corridor in the emergency department, and patients’ waiting time for an in-patient bed in the department being cut from 19.6 hours to seven hours. A medical assessment unit means eight out of 10 patients are now treated within six hours.

However, Ms Hardiman said the hospital was still operating over its budget and was in line for a €25m deficit this year. The problem was being addressed by a two-year savings plan, but one not helped by “legacy issues”, including a previous consultancy agreement costing €1.8m that is itself the subject of a review.

An external payroll facility meant €739,000 was paid to five people from 2005 to 2010, when it was stopped, but it will cost €35,000 a year for an unknown period of time. It is also being independently reviewed.


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