Hospital apologises to parents after wrongful and 'distressing' abuse probe
A CHILDREN'S hospital has apologised after it had secretly launched an investigation into the parents of a sick child over injuries they suspected might have been from physical abuse.
This was one of the cases dealt with by Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly, whose office experienced its busiest year in almost three decades last year.
In this case, the child had been examined and interviewed by staff at Crumlin's Hospital for Sick Children without his parents' consent. It later emerged medical treatment had been responsible for internal bruising and the parents received an apology after the intervention of the Ombudsman.
Ms O'Reilly said this was "distressing" as the parents only learned many years later after requesting case files that they had been investigated during 2000 when their child was seriously ill.
She said they had removed the child from the hospital in 2000 as they felt staff had been "borderline hostile".
Ms O'Reilly said the hospital had committed to implementing in the Children's First Guidelines which ensures family are involved in such investigations.
It was one of the complaints lodged with the Ombudsman in relation to the Health Services Executive (HSE) which accounted for almost a quarter of the 3,602 complaints received last year.
Yet, it was issues with the Department of Social Protection (DSP) which topped the list with 30pc of complaints, while a further 27pc related to local authorities.
The office dealt with 4,220 complaints in total last year -- a rise of 38pc. It received 11,541 enquiries from members of the public which was up 23pc.
Ms O'Reilly said decision-makers in public bodies were increasingly refusing access to welfare supports.
"Where there is an element of discretion increasingly that discretion is being used to deny people benefits and this is causing people a lot of angst," she said. "If people are being denied benefits they need to be told why."
Ms O'Reilly said there must be an "evidence-based" approach to decisions taken about people's entitlements.
In one case, a father had his carer's allowance reinstated and arrears of €10,287 paid after he had been turned down by the DSP despite looking after a daughter with mental health problems and a suicidal history.
He had submitted medical information showing the issue had been going on for many years. However, it was marked on the form the condition was expected to last 12 months and he was refused.
Other issues that emerged in relation to the HSE were linked to repayments for nursing home charges, with a Cork couple repaid €85,442 for monies paid by both of their late mothers, who lived in the same nursing home. The HSE told them forms hadn't been submitted on time.