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'This is one I got wrong' - Taoiseach apologises for response to claims about decomposing bodies at Waterford hospital

Leo Varadkar’s apology comes after a number of days of being asked about remarks he made.

Varadkar has defended his original comments for a number of days.
Varadkar has defended his original comments for a number of days.
Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has “apologised unreservedly” for his response to concerns over the mortuary at University Hospital Waterford (UHW).

Varadkar’s apology comes after a number of days of being asked about remarks he made on Tuesday about the claims.

Last week, concerns were raised about dead bodies being left on trolleys in the corridors of the mortuary after a letter signed by four consultant pathologists was made public. 

The letter claimed this was due to “inadequate refrigeration facilities” and said it often led to the decomposing bodies “leaking body fluids on to the floor”.

Asked about the claims while canvassing in Waterford on Tuesday, Varadkar said that he had seen no evidence for the claims.

“I don’t know if the claims were true and certainly those who made them haven’t put forward any evidence to support them,” he said.

The South-South West Hospital Group had said on Monday that it had not received any incident reports in relation to the mortuary and had “no evidence that would substantiate the claims contained in recent correspondence”.

The Taoiseach was asked about this issue on Thursday and again said he “didn’t know where the truth lies”. Then yesterday, Varadkar said there “different accounts” about the incident. 

Varadkar was criticised from a number of quarters for seeming to cast doubt on the claims of the pathologists. 

Now, in a statement this afternoon, Varadkar has apologised “to anyone who feels that I did not treat this issue with the seriousness or sensitivity it deserved”.

“Last week when I was asked about the Waterford mortuary, there were conflicting accounts,” the Taoiseach said in statement this afternoon.

“On the one hand, a letter from four consultants making deeply disturbing claims about conditions in the mortuary and on the other hand, a statement from hospital management saying there was no evidence or supporting complaints to back up the claims.”

I did not want to jump to conclusions or to side with one group of staff against another without knowing facts or before an investigation was carried out. That’s why I said that I did not know if the claims were true or not.

“Over the course of the week, corroborating statements have come to light and complaints have been made that I believe support the views expressed by the four consultants. This is one I got wrong.”

“I want to apologise unreservedly to anyone who feels that I did not treat this issue with the seriousness or sensitivity it deserved.”

As I have said before, my overriding concern is for the dignity of patients in life and in death. It has never been in dispute that the mortuary is sub-standard and needs to be replaced.

“Planning permission has been granted for a new one and I am assured that it will go to tender and construction this year. In the interim, temporary measures are being put in place.”

Last Friday, the South-South West Hospital Group said that a mobile refrigeration unit would be installed at the site and would be available “within one to two weeks”.

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Rónán Duffy

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