Tuesday 20 August 2019

Pathologist who told of poor mortuary conditions hits back at HSE claims

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Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

A doctor who was among four medics who revealed the cramped conditions at a hospital mortuary where bodies leaking fluids must be placed in a corridor yesterday accused management of trying to discredit them.

Prof Rob Landers, a pathologist at University Hospital Waterford, was reacting to a statement issued by a public relations firm on behalf of the South/South West Hospital Group saying there was no evidence to substantiate the claims made by doctors and that it had received no formal complaints from the public or staff.

Last week, Prof Landers spoke of the sub-standard conditions at the mortuary which left some bodies without proper temperature control and leaking fluids, leading to distress for bereaved relatives.

He said yesterday that the response from the hospital was an attempt to discredit the doctors who had "put their reputations on the line in order to improve conditions at the hospital". He added: "For the HSE to claim they were unaware of the issues and risks associated with the mortuary is at best disingenuous."

Prof Launders said the HSE at regional and group level were warned of the conditions as early as 2004 and the retired State Pathologist Prof Marie Cassidy had written about her concerns.

The letter outlining the conditions from the four doctors was written to the hospital last October and was made public by the 'Waterford News and Star' newspaper, after a freedom of information request for its release was turned down.

The newspaper has since reported on how a doctor wrote to the hospital group management through an email in 2017 saying a body had to be taken to another county due to lack of room in Waterford mortuary. The hospital group claimed earlier this week that no complaints were received, but it was engaging with one bereaved family who had sought answers after the recent revelations.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, in Waterford yesterday, said that it was a "strange story."

"I don't know if those claims are true or not, but it doesn't seem that there's any evidence to support them and certainly those who made them haven't put forward any evidence to support them," he said. "What really matters is that the new mortuary... is being built."

A spokesman for the Taoiseach said he was briefed by Minister of State John Halligan, who spoke to the doctors involved.

Irish Independent

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