Tuesday 24 October 2017

St Vincent's Group wants all evidence relating to claims by whistleblower

St Vincent’s Private Hospital
St Vincent’s Private Hospital

Niall O'Connor, Greg Harkin and Ryan Nugent

A major hospital group wants the HSE and Department of Health to provide it with all available evidence regarding claims about alleged procurement irregularities.

St Vincent's Healthcare Group said it had not been told that a whistleblower made claims about its private hospital as long ago as last September.

Allegations were made regarding several private healthcare providers, as well as HSE-run St Columcille's in Loughlinstown and Midlands Regional Hospital Mullingar. The two HSE hospitals were subsequently audited and no untoward evidence was found.

The Department of Health insists it has passed on concerns raised by the whistleblower to the HSE and gardai.

But St Vincent's Healthcare Group said it was never contacted by any of the organisations at any stage about this matter.

"The first time management of St Vincent's Private Hospital or the wider St Vincent's Healthcare Group heard of these allegations was when the matter was raised by health minister Leo Varadkar on RTE radio," it said in a statement.

"St Vincent's Healthcare Group will seek from the department and the HSE whatever evidence they have relating to these further allegations, and will investigate them thoroughly".

The latest twist came following claims in RTE's Prime Time programme that staff at two hospitals appeared to have broken rules of their employment.

St Vincent's University Hospital and The Beacon, both in Dublin, have suspended three members of staff without prejudice after the TV investigation.

According to the RTÉ report, some staff accepted expensive holidays and gifts, and were accused of passing on commercially sensitive information to a surgical supplies company.

The HSE suspended all payments to Eurosurgical, the company featured in the RTE probe.

Mr Varadkar said claims that his department and the HSE had been aware of the allegations made on Prime Time since September of last year were "not true".

But he sparked further questions when he revealed separate allegations were made about seven hospitals last September.

He said the allegations made then were more serious than those raised in the Prime Time investigation this week and information was passed to the garda fraud squad as a result.

The Dáil Public Accounts Committee is also expected to investigate procurement issues following the RTE programme.

Irish Independent

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