Sunday 15 December 2019

I'm a victim of unique Irish blame culture, says Harney

Shane Hickey

HEALTH Minister Mary Harney has again refused to step down -- instead insisting that the culture of blaming politicians for medical errors is unique to Ireland.

Dismissing calls for her resignation in the wake of the Tallaght Hospital scandal, Ms Harney said she had "no magic wand" to solve the problems in the health system.

Earlier this month it emerged that 58,000 X-rays at Tallaght Hospital were not checked by consultant radiologists and thousands of GP referral letters were unread.

Ms Harney came in for repeated criticism when the scandal broke as she left for New Zealand on a 15-day trip for St Patrick's Day. She refused to cut short her trip to attend to the issue.

"In many other countries where medical errors occur, there is no question of people asking politicians to resign.

"It is quite unique to Ireland actually and that is something I think we need to note," she said.

"Look at the UK where issues like this arise all the time, or other European countries.

"Or indeed New Zealand where I was recently, there is no question of laying political responsibility for failures of this kind at the hand of politicians."

She said there have been calls for her to resign for the last five years but her responsibility is to make and oversee the implementation of policy.


"I am not a clinician. I don't have any responsibility to read X-rays," Ms Harney said.

Following the cabinet reshuffle by Taoiseach Brian Cowen earlier this week, Ms Harney said she is "delighted" to be returned as the Minister for Health for a fourth time.

"That is a great privilege and it is one I take seriously. Most people would accept that I work hard, that I am changing things to improve services for patients," she said.

"In the past we didn't have much change -- if you don't change anything, you don't get into trouble with anyone and you don't improve much either."

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News