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Investigation into whistleblower’s claims over HSE nursing home fatalities has ‘died a death’ – solicitor

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St Mary's nursing home, Phoenix Park, Dublin

St Mary's nursing home, Phoenix Park, Dublin

St Mary's nursing home, Phoenix Park, Dublin

An investigation into claims made by a whistleblower in a HSE nursing home where 24 patients died from Covid-19 has “died a death”, her solicitor has claimed.

It comes as several relatives of family members who died in St Mary’s nursing home in the Phoenix Park have come forward to support the whistleblower’s claims.

In April, the whistleblower, a staff member at St Mary’s, made a protected disclosure to then Health Minister Simon Harris, the chief executive of the HSE Paul Reid, chief medical officer Tony Holohan, and the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa). The HSE appointed a three-person review team with an independent chair to examine the allegations made in the 35-page dossier.

The team met the whistle-blower in July to confirm and validate an understanding of the nature of the disclosures and examine any supplementary evidence.

“My client spent many hours in front of the panel answering questions,” Caoimhe Haughey, a solicitor representing the whistle-blower, told the Irish Independent.

“The whole thing was transcribed so they gave us access to the minutes and my client went through them with a fine-tooth comb and pointed errors in relation to certain things that were taken down. There was nothing sinister, just innocuous things and mistakes in relation to things that were said. We have heard nothing about the correction of those minutes despite numerous letters.”

Ms Haughey said she had written to Mr Reid and the chairperson of the review panel in relation to the minutes and other matters and has been met with “silence”.

“It’s almost like it’s been shoved off someone’s desk and forgotten about,” she said.

“My client has effectively been stone-walled since she met with the review panel. It’s been total silence. I think this process would put off others coming forward and given the number of deaths in nursing homes across the country I think that’s very worrying.

“In my client’s situation, she put a lot of time and effort into this process and has taken it very seriously. Yet it seems to have just died a death.”

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A spokesperson for the HSE said the correspondence from Ms Haughey “was acknowledged by the CEO’s office and referred to the appropriate division”.

Meanwhile, relatives of family members who died in St Mary’s have come forward to corroborate the claims.

“They are very keen to assist my client and to assist the disclosure from a patient/relative perspective to show that what is being said from a healthcare worker perspective is exactly what patient/relatives on the grounds were seeing for themselves.

"These are people who have reached out on their own accord and we intend to put forward their testimony as additional evidence.”

In a letter to the whistle-blower, the terms of reference for the investigation stated that “the purpose of the investigation is to investigate the subject matter of the protected disclosure”.

On completion of their investigation, the team will produce a report on their findings stating their conclusions.

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