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Minister quizzed over claims hospital staff were required to change statements after incident of self-harm

Concerns were previously raised at the hospital over a suicidal man’s attempt to take his own life there.

2018-07-17 19.38.45 Clontarf Hospital

A NORTH DUBLIN hospital has responded to questioning over an incident of serious self-harm there last year.

Clontarf Hospital had previously faced concerns over patient care there after it emerged that a psychiatric patient, who had professed to have suicidal ideation, left his ward and attempted to take his own life in a staff pantry.

Sources had claimed that staff had made management at the hospital aware that the man was experiencing suicidal ideation on multiple occasions, but that no additional supervision of the patient was put in place.

The Minister for Health Simon Harris has now faced a series of parliamentary questions from Solidarity TD Bríd Smith. These questions were referred on to the HSE which funds but does not operate the hospital.

Those questions were:

  • Was the minister aware of the incident of self-harm, and that staff had expressed concern as to the wellbeing of the patient prior to the incident?
  • Had the HSE, health watchdog HIQA, or the gardaí been notified regarding the incident?
  • Would the minister be instructing HIQA to inspect the hospital and management practices there, including a report that staff “were forced under threat of disciplinary action to change their statements in relation to the incident”?

‘Robust’

“Clontarf Hospital has a risk manager and quality and safety committee in place to report and monitor issues in relation to patient safety,” the HSE’s response reads.

The hospital has robust risk management systems in place and has confirmed that all incidents are reported as required under their statutory obligations and in compliance with the HSE incident management policy. In conjunction with the above, Clontarf Hospital has admission criteria in place to ensure the hospital can safely meet the care needs of admitted patients.

It said that the hospital “does not comment on individual patient cases however, should a concern arise regarding patients with mental health issues, the patients are referred to the appropriate service”.

“Hospital management has advised that at no time have staff been threatened with disciplinary action for completing or reporting of incidents and patient safety concerns in line with hospital and HSE policy,” the response added.

2018-07-17 19.55.31

“Aside from the seriousness of this incident itself, staff have concerns with how management acted afterwards and with the ongoing culture at the hospital that has seen a huge turnover of staff in recent years,” said local People Before Profit councillor John Lyons.

Since 2013, the hospital has experienced high levels of staff attrition, losing more than a quarter of its staff in just two years between 2016 and 2017. It’s believed that the staff who have left have been replaced.

Never previously inspected

“It is important that the public can be reassured about the treatment of vulnerable patients at the facility and that staff concerns are… given due consideration,” said Lyons, before calling on health watchdog HIQA to look into the self-harm incident at Clontarf.

There needs to be a serious investigation into that particular issue (the incident of self-harm), and then more broadly also. It’s a good institution in the area, but there are serious concerns. Some political pressure needs to be applied.

HIQA has never previously inspected Clontarf. A spokesperson for the watchdog said it couldn’t comment on individual cases, but added that a “specific programme of monitoring against relevant national standards in non-acute hospitals such as Clontarf Hospital” will commence in 2019.

It has now emerged that the Oireachtas Health Committee has written, as of last week, to HIQA “in order to establish the facts about the reported incident and
to inquire if the authority has undertaken an investigation into the matter or if it proposes to do so”.

In addition to her parliamentary questions, Smith has also called on the Oireachtas Health Committee to bring senior management at the hospital before it and to request of HIQA that it commission an inspection into the hospital.

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Documents released under Freedom of Information show that a request was made of senior management at the hospital to provide counselling to staff in the wake of the incident.

“It has been a very traumatic week (on the ward),” an email from the time states. “All staff carried out their duty with extreme dedication throughout that time in exceptional circumstances.”

The released documents also show that the hospital average number of patients by year dropped from 1,841 in 2014 to 1,293 in 2017, a fall of 30%.

If you need to talk, contact:

  • Samaritans 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.ie

  • Aware 1800 80 48 48 (depression, anxiety)

  • Pieta House 01 601 0000 or email mary@pieta.ie – (suicide, self-harm)

  • Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 19)

  • Childline 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s)

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