#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 13°C Tuesday 20 October 2020
Advertisement

Varadkar says that holding investigation into claims about decomposing bodies is not one of his priorities

Varadkar earlier said there was no evidence to support the claims.

University Hospital Waterford.
University Hospital Waterford.
Image: Google Maps

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has said that holding an investigation into claims by consultants that dead bodies were left decomposing on a mortuary corridor at University Hospital Waterford is not one of his priorities.

A letter signed by four consultants working at University Hospital Waterford last October was made public last week following a Freedom of Information request by the Waterford News and Star.

The letter claimed dead patients had been left decomposing on the mortuary corridor, which in turn had led to a number of closed-coffin funerals.

The Taoiseach’s initial reaction on Tuesday was that he had seen no evidence to support the claims. He went on to describe the claims as “a strange story”.

The South/Southwest Hospital Group said it hadn’t received any complaints from the public nor hospital staff.

Asked today by this reporter if his opinion had changed, and if he now saw weight in the consultant’s claims, the Taoiseach responded that he “cared most about patients and their families” and that his priority was the construction of a new mortuary.

“What I care about is people being treated with dignity when they’re alive and when they’re dead. Nobody disputes that fact the mortuary needs to be upgraded,” Varadkar said on a visit to Limerick.

“That’s why planning permission was sought for it and granted, and that’s why it is going to tender. 

There is very clearly and very evidently a dispute about the facts. You have consultants, four of them anyway, saying one thing and management (at the hospital) saying the other.

Varadkar also suggested that, others, including a coroner and local undertakers, had not “backed-up” the consultants claims.

“The coroner and the funeral directors – who would know about these things, I imagine, better than you or I would – [are] not backing up what’s been said by the four consultants,” Varadkar said. 

Truth

“I don’t know where the truth lies, whether it’s true or untrue, or a grain of truth and a bit of an exaggeration, but that’s not what I’m about.

The most important thing from my point of view is that we go ahead and build a new mortuary.

When pressed by this reporter if it was his priority to have the matter fully investigated, he replied:

No, the priority is building a new mortuary.

Varadkar said that “the one thing nobody disputes is that the mortuary, like a lot of other mortuary’s around the country, needs to be upgraded”.

“The nature of healthcare and healthcare facilities is probably every thirty to forty years, you need to renew them. A lot of our health infrastructure around the country needs to be upgraded, and that’s the priority,” he said. 

I’ll let other people argue among themselves over other issues.

Limerick

Varadkar also told reporters that US President Donald Trump may visit Ireland in June, but that no arrangements were yet in place.

When asked if he would be visiting University Hospital Limerick – where there has been chronic patient overcrowding, he replied:

“I have visited University Hospital in the past and I will do in the future.

And as somebody who worked in public hospital medicine for many years and who worked in three emergency departments I guarantee you I don’t need to visit any more emergency departments to know what the conditions are like for patients that have to experience overcrowding, for their families, and for the staff as well.

“I know it, I’ve been there – as Minister for Health, as a doctor, as a politician, on many occasions.”

About the author:

David Raleigh

Read next:

COMMENTS (90)

This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel