X-ray probe team can't force people to give evidence
THE team probing the X-ray scandal in Tallaght Hospital will not have the power to force witnesses to give evidence but has been promised full co-operation from the HSE, the inquiry chairman said yesterday.
Outlining the terms of reference, Dr Maurice Hayes warned that the inquiry would be fully independent and that if the team did not get co-operation it "will say so quickly".
Dr Hayes and his team began work yesterday by visiting the hospital, where it emerged that up to 58,000 X-rays were unread by radiologists and nearly 3,500 GP referral letters were unprocessed -- for years in some cases.
The former senator, who has a distinguished career of public service in the North, said it would not be a disciplinary inquiry but "we will report it as we see it".
If action must follow for an individual employee it would be an issue for other organisations, employers or disciplinary bodies to act, he said. The probe would examine if the problems were caused by human error, negligence or systems failures, Dr Hayes added.
He said a key objective would be to restore public confidence in the hospital so that patients could be assured that it was well run and risks were kept to a minimum.
Dr Hayes said he would have an office in Tallaght and would have an "open door" and welcome submissions from anyone. He will meet a local patient support group, the Tallaght Hospital Action Group, this week.
"We will map out the terrain first and find out what went wrong, asking if there is a systems failure, lack of protocols, failure to follow protocols, a lack of resources or a failure to use resources which were there to best effect," he said.
"Having found out what has happened we need to talk to the people concerned. We need to try to ensure that it will not happen again . . . and provide lessons which may not just be for Tallaght."
The team aims to make a report in early July, outlining a list of recommendations. If risks to patients are discovered during the inquiry they will go immediately to the chief executive of the hospital, Professor Kevin Conlon, the Health Service Executive (HSE) or the Health Information and Quality Authority.
HSE chief Brendan Drumm said that Dr Hayes could be assured of the full support of the HSE and would be given full independence.