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Team investigating HSE nursing home death rate asks to meet whistleblower



Converns: Solicitor Caoimhe Haughey is representing the whistleblower. Photo: Caroline Quinn

Converns: Solicitor Caoimhe Haughey is representing the whistleblower. Photo: Caroline Quinn

Converns: Solicitor Caoimhe Haughey is representing the whistleblower. Photo: Caroline Quinn

An investigation team examining claims of alleged shortcomings in response to Covid-19 at a Dublin nursing home has asked to meet the whistleblower at the centre of the probe.

Last month, a member of staff at St Mary's nursing home in the Phoenix Park, Dublin - where 24 residents have died from Covid-19 - made a protected disclosure to Health Minister Simon Harris, chief executive of the HSE Paul Reid, chief medical officer Tony Holohan, and the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa).

The HSE has since appointed a review team with an independent chair to examine the allegations made in the 35-page dossier.

A consultant geriatrician is acting as the clinical lead and a quality patient safety lead from the community operations division of the HSE will also have input.

In a letter to the whistleblower, the terms of reference for the investigation state that "the purpose of the investigation is to investigate the subject matter of the protected disclosure".

The investigation will also address "all concerns raised by the discloser".

On completion of their investigation, the team will produce a report on their findings stating their conclusions as to whether "the alleged wrong doing is/was occurring."

The team has requested a meeting with the whistleblower, a staff member from St Mary's, to "confirm and validate an understanding of the nature of the disclosures" and examine any supplementary evidence.

Caoimhe Haughey, a solicitor representing the whistleblower, said she had concerns about the nature of the review and was seeking clarification from the HSE.

"The terms of reference are not clear at all," she said.

"While the documents furnished to my client refer to the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 and the HSE's own Protected Disclosure Policy document, there is no provision for investigation of St Mary's which is what was initially promised."

She added: "As far as I am concerned it is unclear whether this investigation is strictly for the purposes of testing the veracity of the protected disclosure or whether it is for the purposes of commencing a formal investigation into the practices at St Mary's."

St Mary's is one of the worst-hit nursing homes in the country with 24 confirmed coronavirus deaths.

The home is run by the HSE, has 150 beds and a separate 48 bed step-down hospital.

The whistleblower has alleged that there was a failure to identify, isolate and test residents in a timely and appropriate manner during the outbreak.

She also claims that there was a failure to isolate symptomatic patients and that suspect cases were transferred on to clean wards.

Irish Independent

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