Saturday 17 August 2019

Varadkar says he still does not know where truth lies on Waterford hospital mortuary

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo: Frank McGrath
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo: Frank McGrath

Cormac McQuinn and Eilish O’Regan

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said today he still does not now “where the truth lies” in relation to claims made about leaking bodies having to be placed in the corridor of the mortuary in University Hospital Waterford.

He said he did not know “whether it's true or untrue or a grain of truth and a bit of exaggeration but that's not what I'm about.

“What I'm about is making sure that patients and their families get dignity in life and in death. That means building the new mortuary.”

He was answering reporters’ questions after Health Minister Simon Harris said earlier that doctors who highlighted their concerns about sub-standard conditions at University Hospital Waterford mortuary “performed an important duty.”

Mr Harris was speaking in the wake of criticism of hospital management and Mr Varadkar who said there was” no evidence” in the form of complaints to substantiate the doctors’ claims about cramped conditions and bodies decomposing on the corridor.

Mr Harris said:”The Taoiseach was asked a question and he said that factually he did not have all the information.”

“We know that Waterford needs a new mortuary. We know the current mortuary in Waterford needs to be replaced.Planning permission has been granted and it is going to go to tender in the next few weeks.”

“We know hospital management in the interim have taken measures to improve the situation.We don’t know the details of what is going on in the mortuary every single day. I think that is what the Taoiseach was highlighting,” said the minister.

“There is no disagreement.”

Mr Harris who was asked about the controversy as he launched new legislation to improve organ donation said he has “never known doctors to hold back in terms of their advocacy .

“They performed an important duty in highlighting their concerns. There is no disagreement

“I take what doctors and nurses  say very seriously.I also take what hospital managers say seriously.”

The four doctors who first wrote about their concerns to management last October are expected to be invited before the Oireachtas health committee to expand on their evidence.

Meanwhile, the Taoiseach said today “the priority is still building a new mortuary. One thing nobody disputes is that the mortuary like a lot of other mortuaries around the country needs to be upgraded.... the nature of healthcare facilities is probably about every 30 or 40 years you need to renew them. A lot of our health infrastructure around the country needs to be upgraded.

“And that's the priority. I'll let other people argue amongst themselves over other issues. My priority is patients. It's their dignity in life and in death and the families and that means building the new mortuary which as I say was happening anyway. Planning permission has already been secured.“

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