HSE error 'could jeopardise sex cases evidence'

Concerns have emerged over the cases of 25 people who were examined at the Sexual Assault Treatment Unit at Letterkenny General Hospital following an administrative error by the HSE.

Concerns have emerged over the cases of 25 people who were examined at the Sexual Assault Treatment Unit at Letterkenny General Hospital following an administrative error by the HSE.

The victims, some as young as 14, have been contacted by gardaí after revelations about the status of a nurse who carried out their forensic tests, the Irish Independent reported this morning.

It has emerged that the nurse in question was not registered with the nursing board, An Bord Altranais, and was removed from that register in 2009 for non payment of fees.

However that information never filtered down to where the nurse was working at the Sexual Assault Treatment Unit at Letterkenny General Hospital.

The administrative blunder was only spotted during routine checks in recent weeks and the HSE said the nurse is no longer on duty.

A major investigation is now underway into how the nurse was allowed to carry out the tests over an 18-month period beginning in late 2009, according to the Irish Independent.

Gardaí and HSE have had to contact 25 people who were treated at the unit in the last 18 months and there are fears that forensic evidence gathered may not be admissible in court.

The matter has been brought to the attention of the Health Minister, the Justice Minister, the Attorney General and the DPP.

The HSE said it has appointed two independent experts to carry out a review into the matter.

Rosemary Ryan, risk manager at the Irish Public Bodies, and Mary McCarthy, former chief nursing officer at the Department of Health, will also look in detail at any issues relating to professional practice in the SATU.

The investigation began on May 5.

The HSE said: “The review will seek to establish why the necessary processes and checks, in keeping with HSE policy, did not identify that this individual was not registered.

“Since becoming aware of this issue, the HSE has checked, and is satisfied, that all nurses working in other sexual assault treatment units around the country are actively registered.”

Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) executive director Fiona Neary said it was a bad day for victims of rape and sexual assault in Ireland.

“We are very concerned for the wellbeing of the victims in these 25 cases, and for the future of child protection in Ireland,” she said.

“We know that for survivors of rape the experience of a forensic medical examination can be traumatic.

“Many victims choose to do it because they do not want this to happen to someone else – they want to prevent anyone else being hurt.

“The reality is that for these 25 rape victims, having made the very difficult decision to have a forensic medical examination, the possibility of their gaining justice has been greatly diminished.

“These rape victims have been betrayed by the HSE.”

A Garda spokeswoman said the HSE has made gardaí aware of concerns they have about the registration status of a nurse in their employment at Letterkenny General Hospital.

“As this matter concerns persons who attended the Sexual Assault Treatment Unit (SATU) at Letterkenny Hospital, we are working closely with the HSE to ensure that those involved are notified and are kept fully informed of all developments,” she said.

“We have also brought this matter to the attention of the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.”

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