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Tuesday 24 April 2018

St Vincent’s Hospital at centre of drugs cover-up accusations and HSE top-ups row

An aerial view of St. Vincent's Hospital
An aerial view of St. Vincent's Hospital

Management at St Vincent’s Hospital is coming under immense pressure today as the hospital finds itself at the centre of two controversies.

Earlier today, Independent Senator John Crown made a hugely damaging accusation against the hospital in the Seanad.

He sensationally accused staff at the hospital of deliberately and fraudulently charging health insurers for cancer drugs provided free of charge.

He accused the management and board of St Vincent’s Hospital of a “cover-up” in relation to the issue, saying that he had personally notified the relevant authorities and the Irish Medicines Board when he learnt about it in 2002.

He said members of the staff at the hospital had been deliberately and fraudulently charging private health insurers in respect of cancer drugs which had been provided to that institution for free.

He claimed documents had recently came into his possession which showed that there was a ‘cover-up’ conducted by the management and board of St Vincent’s hospital in respect of this.

Professor Crown told the Seanad that the board of St Vincent’s hospital did not enjoy his confidence. He said he was prepared to supply the documents he had to Health Minister James Reilly.

Prof Crown told the Seanad he works there – but disassociated himself and the many organisations he works with from the controversy.

The leader of the Seanad, Fine Gael Senator Maurice Cummins, agreed to bring the matter to the attention of the health minister.

A spokesperson for St Vincent’s Hospital said they would be asking Prof Crown to give them documents supporting his claim and would investigate.

The damaging accusations were made just hours after the Minister for Health warned St Vincent’s Hospital would face “serious consequences” for their reported non co-operation with a HSE audit into private allowances paid to senior members of staff.

Speaking on RTE’s Morning Ireland programme, Mr Reilly described the situation as “unfortunate”.

“Well I think that’s very unfortunate. I think it’s very clear that people need to be in compliance, part of compliance is co-operating,” the minister said.

“If St Vincent’s Hospital insist on not co-operating, they’re heading for serious trouble in my view and there will be serious consequences for that hospital .”

Before noon, the Dail Committee on Public Accounts today dispatched a senior HSE official to contact senior executives in St Vincent's Hospital to find out why it is refusing to provide information on salary top-ups.

After HSE Director Barry O' Brien read out a letter from St Vincent's at the committee meeting today, chairman Deputy John Mc Guinness said he was "fed up with all this nonsense".

He told Mr O' Brien to contact St Vincent's and ask its senior management to respond to the committee before it adjourns today.

Michael Brennan & Eilish O’Regan

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