HSE sent draft legal document to Hiqa as part of court threat
The HSE drew up a draft legal document as part of its threat to go to the High Court to prevent the publication of the highly-critical report on Portlaoise Hospital and sent it to Hiqa, it has emerged.
The document, seen by the Irish Independent, was sent on the same day the chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan, had convened a crunch meeting between the HSE and watchdog at the Department of Health.
The draft notice of motion seeking a judicial review was sent to Hiqa in March as the HSE disputed draft findings in the patient safety report and claimed it was not allowed a proper response.
The draft document included a request for an injunction restraining Hiqa from publishing the report until such time as the HSE and "each of its affected employees and officers" had been afforded their rights to receive, and respond to, all relevant information about them.
The draft document was sent on March 19 by head of legal services at the HSE, Eunice O'Raw, to Hiqa's legal team "so you might see the areas of difficulties we perceive and that we might be able to work through".
Five days later, a letter from Tony O'Brien to Hiqa chief Phelim Quinn said the "sharing of this document was not intended as a signal of intent".
He said: "I understand it was intended as a courtesy between legal professionals... I am sorry if any other meaning was implied or understood."
The HSE did not proceed with High Court action.
Ms O'Raw, in an accompanying letter to Hiqa's legal adviser Richard O'Sullivan in Cork, said: "I think everyone wants to make sure that there is a publishable report in as short a time-frame as possible. I think the last thing anyone wants is a judicial review."
She said both sides should "keep the lines of communication open" and reduce the chance of a legal challenge.
Ms O'Raw wrote: "I know some staff members have stated they feel that they have been vilified by the process and have lawyered-up."
On March 3, Mr Quinn wrote to Mr O'Brien saying they had written to Health Minister Leo Varadkar about the personal accounts of families and patients and pointing out the HSE structures were not adequate to address the "hurt and damage" caused by their experiences.
As a consequence a single contact person was identified in the HSE to address their needs. The details were given to the HSE.
"If you cannot locate these details, they can be provided to you again," Mr Quinn wrote to the HSE chief.