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Health service scandals: Leo Varadkar faced some tough questions today

The health minister said that he has “no doubt” that many more such stories will come to light in the months to come.
Nov 5th 2015, 7:54 PM 18,406 64

Updated at 8pm

HEALTH MINISTER LEO Varadkar has spoken for the first time in public about the circumstances at Tallaght Hospital which saw a 91-year-old man left on a trolley for 29 hours.

Speaking at Dublin Castle, the minister branded the situation that unfolded at Tallaght as “indefensible”, but said he doesn’t blame the hospital staff.

“I don’t blame the staff or management, I don’t think that’s fair, almost all of them are doing the best they can,” he said.

While it’s indefensible that anyone should spend more than 24 hours in an emergency department, unfortunately this isn’t an isolated incident. And most of those affected are elderly people because most of the people in hospital nowadays are elderly people.

The minister said that he has ”no doubt” that further such examples will emerge in the coming months.

“This isn’t an isolated incident, there are dozens of people waiting on trolleys every day waiting for more than 24 hours. The focus has to be on solutions – more beds, more primary care,” he said.

We’re doing everything we can to reduce overcrowding but we need a comprehensive solution not short term thinking. A lot has been done already with an additional 250 beds freed up.

The first three of 64 ambul Source: Mark Stedman/Rollingnews.ie

There are another 400 beds being opened up between now and January, including an extension to the emergency department and an additional 16 beds in Tallaght itself.
There’s a plan in place and we’re implementing it. The reality is that most of these patients are elderly and are getting older. We need a comprehensive solution to overcrowding.

Asked about the suggestion that the consultant, Jim Gray (who wrote an email in relation to the situation in Tallaght) should be sanctioned for his actions Varadkar said that “what matters here is the patient”.

I’ll always defend patient advocacy on the part of medical staff, that’s part of their job, but that differs from using clinical information in the media without a patient’s consent.

The minister said that he had spoken to the patient in Tallaght personally.

Apparently the patient wasn’t happy that his information, how long he’d been married and his situation, had been put in the public domain without his knowledge.

The Emergency Department Taskforce, which is looking into the issues at such departments around the country, was yesterday branded a failure by its co-chair Liam Doran, the secretary general of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO). When this was mentioned to the minister he said he’s “not here to blame people”.

“There is a plan and it’s proceeding,” the minister added.

The minister was at the official unveiling of the first of 64 new ambulances for the National Ambulance Service, a €9.4 million investment.

The ambulances are not in addition to the current fleet, rather they will be allocated to bases across the country to replace vehicles that have reached the end of their life cycle.

Later, on RTE’s News at One Varadkar confirmed that he had been in touch with the patient in Tallaght and that the man felt that his situation had been misrepresented, and that he did not feel that he had been in any way mistreated by staff, nor been subjected to light or noise-torture as had been reported.

Read: All eyes on Leo as yet another awful story emerges from an Irish hospital

Read: Tallaght Hospital to probe how information on 91-year-old patient was given to media

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Cianan Brennan

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