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Dublin: 17 °C Friday 10 April, 2020

Simon Harris says there will be a review of Waterford mortuary

He said he would consider who would carry out the review over the next few days.


MINISTER FOR HEALTH Simon Harris has said that a review will be conducted into University Hospital Waterford’s mortuary after concerns were raised by four pathologists about its conditions.

In response to queries from Sinn Féin’s Waterford TD David Cullinane, Harris said that there was a need for a review.

“There is a need for questions to be answered in regard to how the mortuary operates and how we make sure best practice is in place.”

He said he would consider the terms of reference and who should carry out the review in the next couple of days, and said he would accept submissions on the matter.

Four pathologists wrote a letter in October outlining concerns about the conditions at the hospital’s mortuary, saying that bodies had been left on trolleys in the corridors of the mortuary, leading to closed-coffin funerals, and exposing the public visiting hospitals “to the odours of a postmortem room”.

The hospital and the South-SouthWest group in charge of UHW have said that no incident reports of the concerns outlined by the pathologists were found, and there were no complaints from the public.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar originally said that he wasn’t sure whether to believe the reports after no evidence was found by the hospital, but later apologised and said that he regretted his tone.

Opposition TDs have demanded that am inquiry or further investigation into the conditions at the mortuary be carried out. 

In response to a query from Sinn Féin’s David Cullinane, Harris said that this Friday, the temporary additional refrigeration facilities for the mortuary will arrive at the hospital in Waterford.

He said that this would increase the refrigeration facilities from six to 13 and “will end the situation of bodies on trolleys in corridors”.

“It is important we have dignity in regard to death,” he told TDs.

Harris said that he has also given approval to issue a tender to build the permanent mortuary.

I understand that will take a number of weeks in terms of processes, European rules and the like, but the go-ahead is in place and that new mortuary will be funded in the capital plan which I will publish shortly.

The Health Committee is to hear from representatives from the South-South West hospital group, the four pathologists who initially raised the issue, as well as other relevant witnesses in relation to the conditions at the mortuary.

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