Tuesday 27 September 2016

HSE boss: We mishandled apology to suspected abuse victim

Shane Phelan, Public Affairs Editor

Published 02/02/2016 | 13:00

HSE director general Tony O’Brien today apologised to the Dail Public Accounts Committee (PAC)  for providing misleading information indicating an apology had been made.
HSE director general Tony O’Brien today apologised to the Dail Public Accounts Committee (PAC)  for providing misleading information indicating an apology had been made.

The HSE has admitted it “mishandled” an apology to a woman suspected of being sexually abused in a foster home.

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HSE director general Tony O’Brien today apologised to the Dail Public Accounts Committee (PAC)  for providing misleading information indicating an apology had been made.

He said it had been intended that an apology be made to the woman, known as Grace, at a meeting last December.

Grace was one of 47 children and adults, many of whom had intellectual disabilities, placed at the foster home between 1983 and 1995.

Referrals to the home ended in 1995 after the former South Eastern Health Board received allegations of abuse.

However, Grace was not removed from the home until 2009 and her social workers believe she was the victim of neglect and sexual abuse.

PAC vice-chairman John Deasy told today’s hearing it was feared Grace had suffered truly horrific abuse.

“Rape with implements. Horrific sexual abuse allegations. Some of the worst examples of abuse I have ever come across,” he said.

Mr O’Brien told the PAC the allegations of abuse were “of the most egregious nature”.

He said apologies over failings in care were issued by registered letter to 43 families who could be traced. Three families could not.

However, in Grace’s case, it was decided that an apology be made in person.

But Mr O’Brien said the instruction to make an apology was “lost in the communication to the staff members” who were to make the apology.

When reports emerged on January 20 that no apology was made, the HSE subsequently issued a statement insisting one had.

Mr O’Brien told the committee this was down to another misunderstanding.

He said a “personal expression of regret” on the part of a HSE employee had been misinterpreted as having been a formal apology when the statement was issued.

The Cabinet is today expected to approve the setting up of a formal Commission of Investigation into the foster home and the HSE’s handling of abuse allegations.

Two independent reports were commissioned by the HSE into allegations regarding the foster home.

But neither has been published to date. The HSE said gardai had advised that to do so may adversely affect ongoing investigations.

Mr O’Brien said the HSE intended to publish the reports when given clearance to do so.

He said he met Health Minister Leo Varadkar and Junior Health Minister Kathleen Lynch yesterday and welcomed the proposed commission. Mr O’Brien said that it would allow the families to get answers.

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