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Hospital hires solicitors to challenge A&E inquiry

A cash-strapped hospital is paying lawyers to challenge aspects of an inquiry into the running of its emergency department.

But Tallaght Hospital in Dublin declined yesterday to say how much it was paying the firm of solicitors in legal fees. The hospital, which has a deficit of more than €10.3m, confirmed its legal advisers were A&L Goodbody, who are seeking clarification that the inquiry will be "transparent and fair."

The use of solicitors by the hospital has been criticised by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA), the safety watchdog. It is currently investigating the emergency department, which has suffered severe overcrowding, leaving some patients to be cared for in corridors earlier this year.

The hospital has insisted that its management must get a full transcript of all interviews. They also want a month to review a draft report of the investigation to get a right of reply.

In an angry response, the watchdog said the hospital appeared to be warning that it would not co-operate with the inquiry. It insisted it had statutory powers, which would force the hospital to co-operate.

Giving the hospital a full transcript would be unnecessarily "burdensome and expensive", said HIQA. It would judge the hospital's performance against the best national and international standards, HIQA added. It has also rejected the demand that Tallaght be given a full transcript of all interviews conducted.

Inspectors from HIQA have been in the hospital for a number of weeks looking at the emergency department. The inquiry followed an inquest in which a coroner called it a "dangerous place" after hearing how very ill patients had to be placed on corridors.

A spokeswoman for the hospital said it was fully co-operating but it was important that there was due process.

Health Minister James Reilly said he was satisfied the management of the hospital and HIQA were fully co-operating "in the interest of patient care".

Irish Independent