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Harris says he treats all protected disclosures with the 'utmost seriousness' but can't confirm probe into St Mary's


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St. Mary's Hospital, Phoenix Park. Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

St. Mary's Hospital, Phoenix Park. Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Colin Keegan

St. Mary's Hospital, Phoenix Park. Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

HEALTH Minister Simon Harris has said he treats any protected disclosures with the "utmost seriousness" and said it's very important that people come forward with any concerns they have.

His remarks come after Independent.ie revealed that a whistleblower in a HSE nursing home where 24 patients have died from Covid-19 has alleged that strong enough efforts were not made to prevent fatalities.

The staff member at St Mary's nursing home in Dublin's Phoenix Park made a protected disclosure to Mr Harris and HSE chief executive Paul Reid on Wednesday.

Mr Harris this morning said that legally he is not allowed to confirm receipt of a protected disclosure.

But he said there's "a very clear protocol in place in terms of what must be done when a minister receives a protected disclosure."

And he added: "I want to assure people any protected disclosures received by me will be treated with the utmost seriousness by me personally and will be processed by my Department in accordance with the law."

He said: "I think it’s very important that anybody that ever has a concern or a view comes forward and makes that information available to the authorities. And any protected disclosures I receive will be dealt with."

The 35-page dossier contains serious allegations including a claim that concerns about the welfare of residents were not listened to and that there was "stringent rationing" of personal protective equipment (PPE) and staff became infected.

Sinn Féin's health spokesperson Louise O'Reilly has called for an investigation into the allegations raised by the whistleblower.

Mr Harris declined to say if an investigation will be launched into the claims made about the response to coronavirus at St Mary's.

He said: "I have to go through the protocols in relation to protected disclosures."

Mr Harris said that in general "We already have the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) that under law can actually initiate investigations or inspections in any residential care setting that it believes is necessary."

He said the HSE also have an incident framework and "if they’re concerned from a patient safety point of view they can also launch an investigation."

Mr Harris reiterated that he treats any protected disclosure "in the most serious manner.

"All the protocols will be followed and I very much welcome anybody coming forward with important information."

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