Unanswered Questions on the Tallaght Hospital Revelations of Neglect

The Tallaght hospital’s neglect of service users – 58,000 unread x-rays and a present figure of 3,500 unopened GP referral letters – brought on a tide of Government opposition demands for the resignation of the Minister for Health and the CEO of the HSE, Professor Drumm. Opposition party politicians do themselves no good when they use health scandals to target their in-government peers.  They would be better served in providing solutions for the very serious delays experienced by the public and by General Practitioners.

The Irish Hospital Consultants Association delivered a quick response to what they described as the ‘delayed radiology reporting’ but, curiously made no mention of the thousands of unopened letters! The association claims that the Consultant Radiologists, ‘both individually and collectively, brought the growing delay in reporting x-rays to the attention of hospital management over the past number of years. In excess of forty letters were written to Hospital management.’  There is something missing in the response – how is it that it took an uncovering of the neglect from the outside for the IHCA to defend itself? Furthermore, why didn’t the IHCA publicise the appalling state of affairs. It appears that IHCA consider the HSE is to blame and are not best placed to investigate the untenable situation. However, is the IHCA in a reliable place because why were they not shouting from the rooftops – there were plenty of eager opposition politicians all too ready to take up the case and no shortage of journalists either. Why the silence? Was it that the IHCA wanted the situation to become so appallingly serious in order to embarrass the HSE and the Government? I don’t know but I would like to know. The relationship between the consultants and Mary Harney and the HSE has been to say the least fractious and I’m just hoping that the welfare of HSE service-users was not sacrificed in an attempt to bring down Mary Harney.  It is enough that we have had children who were physically, emotionally and sexually abused sacrificed to maintain the good image of the Catholic Church.

What also need to be clarified by the Tallaght Hopsital Administrators is how come they did not act on the forty plus letters? Was it that their hands were tied by HSE policies? We need to know where the accountability lies so that the situation is not repeated.

With regard to accountability, there is no guarantee that any professional training – medical, religious, political, social, psychological, educational, managerial – produces maturity, a truth that has not been acknowledged. Indeed, the contrary would seem to be the case, because there is no requirement for those individuals – with the exception of psychotherapists and psychoanalysts – to examine their lives. Much of the neglect that has led to the present Church, political, financial and health scandals would not have happened if we had mature individuals manning these professions. There is a clear need to examine the nature of the training undergone by key professionals in our society and to determine its effectiveness in resolving the undoubted present unresolved emotional baggage that we all bring to our adulthood. There has been a cleverly designed assumption that education brings maturity but the facts do not support this claim. For instance, what happened and what is still happening in the banks gives little grounds for hope of mature change; the Church too is hugely struggling with accountability and, sadly, medical professionals appear very reluctant to appear as a witness in the case of professional neglect by a colleague. Turning a blind eye proved to be very evident in the case of Dr. Neary, the Drogheda Obstetrician/Gynaecologist whose colleagues over twenty years did not challenge his bizarre conduct. One worries what kind of denial has been going on in the Tallaght hospital and will it emerge that yet another cover-up was going on?

If politicians want to demonstrate eligibility to govern, let them first take the sty out of their eyes and practice mature responses to uncovered neglects – wherever they occur. Making political mileage out of such tragedies is a recipe for further disasters and does not auger well were any of the opposition parties to become a government party.

Dr. Tony Humphreys practices as a clinical psychologist. He is the author of several books on practical psychology including The Mature Manager. For details of course and lectures see: www.tonyhumphreys.ie