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Union fury as 'hospital staff gagged'


Silent treatment: Staff at Our Lady's Children’s Hospital are restricted from speaking out against the Board

Silent treatment: Staff at Our Lady's Children’s Hospital are restricted from speaking out against the Board

Silent treatment: Staff at Our Lady's Children’s Hospital are restricted from speaking out against the Board

The country's largest health union has criticised a new code of conduct for staff at Our Lady's Children's Hospital in Crumlin that it claims restricts employees from speaking out.

The "code of ethical business conduct" issued to staff at Our Lady's Children's Hospital in April instructs employees "to ensure that nothing they say or do should ever weaken the reputation" of the hospital and its staff.

Another clause says employees "will avoid publicly criticising" the Board or the hospital without having first exhausted every "internal avenue" of complaint.

All hospitals are now required to produce code of conducts and ethics for its employees.

However, Impact, which represents a large number of staff at the hospital, has criticised some "restrictive" clauses in the Crumlin children's hospital document, which also covers conflicts of interest, business ethics, and how employees should interact with patients and colleagues.

Sources claim the new code could stop employees from speaking out about issues such as the location of the new National Children's Hospital which has been the subject of huge debate amongst doctors and families.

"There was no discussion with employees, or their union Impact, before this code of ethics was circulated to Crumlin hospital staff. Impact has since raised a number of questions about the code with hospital management.

"We have queried the extent of the restrictions on staff members speaking out about issues like the new children's hospital," said the Impact source.

"While the union has not adopted a position on the location of the new children's hospital, we believe that citizens and parents have the right to express an opinion regardless of where they happen to work, and that includes staff of Crumlin hospital."

In a statement, Our Lady's Children's Hospital said it has not been contacted by Impact, and said staff continue to sign the code of conduct.

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"A Code of Ethical Business Conduct was issued to staff at Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin, last month in line with corporate governance requirements under the Hospital's Service Level Arrangement with the HSE. Procedures in relation to dealing with media remain as they were prior to the introduction of the Code."

The Department of Health urged all healthcare providers to introduce codes of conduct for employees to help improve standards of care and performance.

Hospitals that didn't already have codes in place began introducing them last year. Breaches of the codes can result in disciplinary procedures.

Codes differ from hospital to hospital. The code of conduct at Temple Street Children's Hospital, for instance, encourages employees to speak on behalf of patients when necessary.

The code states that employees should be "advocates" for patients and that "all employees are responsible for promoting and protecting the interests of their patients and families, taking into account all aspects of equality and diversity.

"This could involve speaking up for people to make sure that what is best for each individual is always taken into account."

Employees are also encouraged to "report in good faith to hospital management or through the 'Protected Disclosure Policy' a workplace concern that relates to the health or welfare of patients".

It also says reports must not be intended to undermine the reputation of any colleague or service provider.

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