HEALTH Minister James Reilly found himself in the unique position yesterday of praising a report that he hadn't even read.
The report detailed how the three children's hospitals in Dublin were failing to fully use their operating theatres at a time when some children are waiting up to two years for operations.
Dr Reilly had not been supplied with a copy of the 207-page report by the HSE before its contents were revealed by RTE -- and had to request over the public airwaves that it be sent to his department. "The first I heard of this was the 'News at One'," he said yesterday.
Yet this report was carried out in late 2009 and was completed last year. It has all the hallmarks of a report that was buried because it made somebody -- in this case the management of Temple Street, Our Lady's Children's Hospital in Crumlin and Tallaght Hospital -- look bad.
Dr Reilly has been at the centre of the debate on where to build the new children's hospital in Dublin -- yet he knew nothing about a report telling him how to reduce the appalling waiting times for children needing treatment by improving the management of operating theatres. And, almost magically, the report says it can be done without having to provide extra staff or funding.
Dr Reilly did his best to react to the leak of the report by immediately going on to RTE News and promising to tackle the "shameful" waiting lists for children needing treatment.
He warned that those who want to linger behind in the health service will face "consequences". And he said that he would address the organisational and management deficiencies in the child and the adult hospitals.
But he will not be able to do his job without information. And what this episode should teach him immediately is that one of his most important tasks is to get the HSE to tell him what's going on.
If Dr Reilly needs any further advice about the importance of being on top of things, he can read another document - the Nyberg report into the banking crisis. It criticised the "Nobody told me" defence used by our former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern about the banking crisis.
We saw what happened when the previous Government failed to ask the hard questions about what our reckless bankers were doing. Dr Reilly has to ensure he doesn't make the same mistake.