Friday 23 August 2019

Taoiseach backtracks on comments casting doubts about problems at hospital mortuary

Leo Varadkar
Leo Varadkar
John Downing

John Downing

The Taoiseach has said he “regrets the tone” of comments which cast doubt on the standard of mortuary services at Waterford University Hospital.

As controversy continued about Mr Varadkar’s comments, he said he never specifically challenged the views of four pathologists at the hospital. They had criticised the poor condition of the mortuary storage and refrigeration facilities.

In a letter sent to the HSE in October of last year, the pathologists said dead bodies had been left lying on trolleys at the hospital. In the same letter, which was made public last week, they claimed these bodies leaked bodily fluids onto corridors and ruled out open-coffin funerals in some cases adding to bereaved families’ upset.

On Tuesday in Waterford Mr Varadkar said he was not sure if these claims were true - and also said to there was “no evidence” to support the claims.

The Taoiseach was replying to questions as he launched Fine Gael’s local and European election campaigns in Moate, Co Westmeath.  He clearly did not withdraw the earlier remarks – but he said there were differing accounts and he had no reason to doubt the truth of any of these versions of events.

“The only thing I said was there were different accounts, and I did not want to be calling any staff member dishonest or questioning the veracity of what they said.”

Labour leader and former cabinet colleague, Brendan Howlin, accused the Taoiseach of “Trumpian tactics” in dealing with issues he did not like. Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin, said the Taoiseach’s comments militated developing against a culture of openness in the health services.

The Taoiseach said it was universally accepted the morgue facilities needed to be upgraded as they was substandard. He argued that he had always encouraged people to be open and honest in what they say.

“If that is the tone that I struck, or it came across that way, I regret that. I have always encouraged people to raise issues if they have issues,” he said.

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