Roisin’s death the price of skimping on health services

THIS is the price of skimping on essential health services.

A mother and father wrap their arms around the white coffin that holds the body of their baby daughter as they carry her from their local church for burial.

Two years ago the bereft parents celebrated in the same church as little Roisin Ruddle was baptised. Yesterday they cradled her for a last time before laying her to rest a hundred yards from her home in the ancient cemetery her late grandfather lovingly restored for the community before his death three years ago.

Parish priest Fr Ronald Costello, who both baptised Roisin and blessed her coffin, said her parents were devastated but he prayed they would remember the happy times. “They had two years with the precious little child and that can never be taken away from them.”

Roisin died after she was sent away from Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children when her life-saving heart surgery was cancelled because of a shortage of intensive care nurses. Her family and others with children waiting for treatment will have to wait to find out how the chronic shortages were allowed to become so acute that a child died.

The report ordered by Minister for Health Micheál Martin from the Eastern Regional Health Authority which is responsible for Our Lady’s will not be ready this morning as the minister requested and is not expected to be delivered to him until Monday or Tuesday.

Medical personnel at the hospital, who spent yesterday answering lengthy questionnaires about the case, fear the delay will be used by the EHRA and lawyers to water down the strong comments they have to make about the resourcing of Our Lady’s and the life and decisions they are forced to make as a result.

There was no mention of the issue at last night’s monthly board meeting of the ERHA, the last before the summer break, which at times had less than one-third of its 55 members in attendance. It lasted an hour and a quarter, instead of the usual three hours and over half an hour was spent discussing an upcoming meeting with the minister at which the members will make a presentation stressing the importance of their work and detailing objections to their abolition under planned reforms of the health services.

Asked afterwards why the board had not sought to raise the issue or check on progress of the report, the chairman, Fine Gael councillor Joe Doyle, said: “I don’t know anything about it.”

Mr Lyons said the report would be placed on the agenda at the next monthly meeting in September. The authority would make no other comment in relation to the report.

Irish Hospital Consultants Association general secretary Finbarr Fitzpatrick said there would be “war” if the report did not accurately reflect the problems highlighted by senior medics at the hospital who are deeply critical of the way it is resourced: “It would be unacceptable in the extreme if the ERHA, or the Department of Health, try to climb out of their responsibilities and make out that this was anything but a failure on their part to probably fund services.”

The Irish Nurses Organisation yesterday predicted nursing shortages across the health services after warning that hundreds of overseas nurses would leave unless long-term contracts were issued. The INO said some health boards were offering only three- to six-month contracts and overseas nurses, who comprise up to 50% of the nursing staff in some hospitals, were forced to return home or move to other countries where their future was more secure.

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