Figures on abuse two years old

THE Government has failed to release details on the number of Irish children abused or neglected over the past two years, it emerged yesterday.

Minister for Children Brendan Smith admitted the latest details available on vulnerable children dated back to 2005. He said it was hoped the Health Service Executive (HSE) would soon provide details on abused or neglected children in different health regions for 2006 and 2007.

But the opposition said the delay was a “disgrace”. Fine Gael’s Alan Shatter said: “Am I right in understanding that the department has absolutely no idea how many children were reported to the HSE during 2006 or 2007 as being at risk? The minister does not know the average waiting times before children at risk are assessed. He does not know how many children are at risk at present because they are on a waiting list.”

Mr Shatter questioned how Mr Smith’s department could function without the crucial information about how child protection services were working.

He said the HSE had a statutory obligation under the Child Care Act 1991 to publish an annual report relating to child welfare services, which included notifications of child abuse or neglect.

Mr Smith said he was “anxious” the Government would have the up-to-date information available as soon as possible.

The report for 2006 was nearing completion, he told the Dáil.

“I am informed by the HSE that the report on 2007 will be completed in the summer of this year. We want a more timely publication of reports.”

Meanwhile, Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said dirty hospitals were killing patients. He demanded to know why a microbiologist post at St Colmcille’s Hospital, Loughlinstown had not been filled almost a full year after a coroner first raised concerns about the matter following the death of Kathleen Whiston from a C difficile infection she caught after admission.

“People go into hospital to get cured, not to get killed,” Mr Gilmore told the Dáil.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny also raised the case as he urged taoiseach-elect Brian Cowen to take action.

“Over a seven-month period, 16 other people died in the hospital from hospital acquired infections. C.difficile was the direct cause of death in five cases and a contributory factor in five other cases. In half of the remaining cases, MRSA was directly to blame.

“Could these deaths have been prevented? The answer must be that they could have been prevented if the essential staff had been in place and proper procedure and practice followed.”

Mr Cowen said that while it would be better to have a microbiologist in place, it did not necessarily mean the deaths could have been prevented.

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