Health department slated over supervision failure

THE Department of Health was criticised for failures in its supervisory role over the Blood Transfusion Service Board by the Lindsay Report.

But former Health Ministers Rory O’Hanlon and Barry Desmond were cleared of any blame for giving inaccurate information to the Dáil.

The Department did not move quickly and decisively to solve staffing and structural problems in the Blood Transfusion Service Board.

The problems were particularly serious as it became clear that the BTSB would have to deal with the problem resulting from the spread of AIDS.

“The Tribunal is of the opinion that its failure to do so contributed to the situation where the BTSB found it very difficult to deal with the problems caused to the blood service by the rapid progression of AIDS.

“Strengthening the membership of the board, in particular in regard to financial expertise, was not enough to adequately deal with the situation,” the report says. The Department was also lacking in the provision of dental services for haemophiliacs and counselling for people with HIV.

The Department was aware of the dental deficiencies and small amounts of money could have made considerable improvements in the service, the tribunal feels.

Appeals from St James Hospital for counselling were ignored for almost two and a half years and the Tribunal says the Department should have looked more sympathetically at the application for an additional social worker. “There can be no doubt that the lack of availability of suitable counselling facilities made an already very difficult situation even worse for the persons with haemophilia who were affected,” the report says.

The tribunal said Barry Desmond had no direct input or involvement in the formulation and implementation of the Department’s policy on blood products during his term as Health Minister from 1982 to 1987.

Although the Minister did unintentionally give inaccurate and misleading information to Dáil Eireann in November 1985, he was simply using information given to him by civil servants.

“The Tribunal does not believe that any blame can be placed on him in regard to the inaccuracy of the information,” the report says.

In relation to Dr O’Hanlon, the report says he also gave inaccurate information in April 1989. The Tribunal was satisfied that he was doing no more than placing on record information given to him by officials in the Department. “It would not be fair or correct to place any blames on him in respect of the inaccuracy of that information,” the report says.

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