Accountability in health services - Who benefits from secrecy?

THE State and its agents have built an impenetrable wall of silence around itself and its at-arms-length employees and their occasional failings.

Accountability in health services - Who benefits from secrecy?

Any government department or agency shrugs off legitimate questions about failure in the public sphere, and the consequences faced by the individuals involved or the cost of sanctions or settlements made out of the public purse, with the Teflon dismissal: “We don’t comment on individual cases.”

Game, set, and match to the bureaucrats and the medical establishment.

Is it any wonder that accountability, as a tool to improve services and standards, is irrelevant? Is it any wonder that our health service, the latest beneficiary of this institutionalised omerta, is such a shambolic, staggering wreck?

Earlier this week, a case taken by Praveen Halappanavar, whose wife Savita died because she was refused an abortion while in University Hospital Galway, against that hospital and the HSE was settled. Yesterday an additional settlement of €35,000 was made.

The first settlement was described as substantial, as it should be, but is it not incongruous that an unknown amount of public money can be used to pay for lethal mistakes made in a public hospital?

The argument can be made that a bereaved family should be allowed privacy but it is hard not to think that the main beneficiaries of this unhealthy arrangement are those who manage to keep the huge cost of their unfortunate mistakes out of the public eye.

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