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Dublin: 3 °C Tuesday 12 November, 2019
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'There is an attempt to muzzle us': Nurse suspended after criticising psychiatric unit

Leo Varadkar said he will look into the issue.

Image: Shutterstock

A MENTAL HEALTH nurse who criticised the new psychiatric unit at Cork University Hospital has been placed off-duty indefinitely.

Des McSweeney, a Siptu shop steward, spoke to the media last month about his concerns over patient safety at the facility.

McSweeney said senior management told him he had breached the hospital’s communications policy.

However, the nurse told Morning Ireland today “the real reason” he has been suspended is because he highlighted certain issues.

“I have been gagged in some ways … this is the consequence of speaking up,” he said, claiming that management wanted to keep him and his colleagues from publicly voicing their concerns.

“There is an attempt very much to muzzle us.”

McSweeney said this has created an “intimidating” and “frightening” atmosphere as “some people don’t feel empowered to speak up”, particularly those on temporary contracts.

He wrote to Health Minister Leo Varadkar about the issue on 31 March. Varadkar, who was also on Morning Ireland, said McSweeney “may well have” written to him but he hasn’t seen the correspondence.

“When I know the facts, I’ll certainly give you a response,” the health minister said, adding: “I’ll certainly get it checked out.”

Waiting lists

When questioned about the fact the number of people waiting for medical appointments has passed 400,000 for the first time, Varadkar said this figure includes “people who are waiting one week and two weeks”.

He added that it was “definitely of concern” that about 77,000 people are waiting for more than a year, noting: “Every effort is made to see urgent cases much quicker than that.”

The HSE is working to ensure no one will have to wait more than 18 months by June, and 15 months by the end of 2015.

“I know those targets aren’t good by any means but they are achievable,” Varadkar stated.

26/3/2015 Future of Health Care Assistants in Ireland

In relation to the ongoing row being Hiqa and the HSE over a report into maternity care in Portlaoise Hospital, the health minister said: “I certainly don’t like to see state agencies in conflict and I definitely don’t believe they should be suing each other.”

Varadkar said the report is still in draft stage and he will make sure it is published “within a day or two” of when he receives the final version.

The Coombe is now overseeing maternity services at Portlaoise.

During the interview, Varadkar also described the agreement struck by the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), the HSE and the Department of Health to ensure free health care for under 6s as “a very significant breakthrough”.

He said it is “the first step on the road to universal healthcare”, which will be introduced in the coming years.

Read: There’s been a breakthrough in those talks on free GP care for kids

Read: A report into Portlaoise hospital is being delayed AGAIN as the HSE and HIQA go toe to toe

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Órla Ryan

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