December 3, 2020
News

Enough is enough: Health Minister under fire over ‘war-torn country’ conditions at UHW

Enough is enough – that is the stinging message directed at Health Minister Simon Harris from local politicians and a patient’s group over the situation at University Hospital Waterford.

A letter, seen by waterfordnow.ie, from the South East Patent Advocacy Group (SEPAG) and addressed to both him and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, has hit out at what it says are conditions ‘like something you would see in a war-torn country’.

On Friday, we published photographs, taken by local Councillor John Hearne, of patients to sleeping in corridors either on the floor or in makeshift beds from chairs in the Psychiatric Unit at University Hospital – you can view them here.

Signed by Hilary O’Neill, Chairperson of SEPAG on behalf of 500,000 people in the southeast, the letter goes on to say the Government ‘with the assistance of FF, aided and abetted by senior civil servants in the DOH, have created this mess and you are systematically denying the people of the southeast access to safe services at their regional hospital, especially life-saving 24/7 cardiac care.’

The full text of the letter from SEPAG is reprinted below.

Meanwhile, a Waterford TD will raise a monition in the Dáil next week condemning the Health Minister and the HSE.

Sinn Fein TD David Cullinane has said he was “utterly shocked” following the discovery, but “not surprised.”

“The mental health commission recently published a report on the unit and found that residents’ general health needs were not monitored and assessed in line with their specific needs.

“It also found that physical examinations were inadequate, that residents did not have access to a supply of appropriate emergency personal clothing, and that the centre was not clean, hygienic and free from offensive odours.

“Words are one thing; we now have photographic evidence revealing a unit that is operating under conditions that would make a Victorian workhouse blush.”

He said the staff are not to blame and they are working under stressful conditions.

“They are operating under incredible stress and distress.

“Both the Minister and the HSE know that is about funding and resources.

“Yet, despite this, they refuse to do anything about it.

“I have constantly raised the level of care at the unit, and quite frankly at this stage I am sick to the teeth of the Minister’s excuses.

“I will be putting down a motion on this issue next week. We need answers, and solutions, once and for all.”

 

FULL TEXT OF SEPAG LETTER TO HEALTH MINISTER SIMON HARRIS AND TAOISEACH LEO VARADKER:

 

Dear Deputy Varadkar & Deputy Harris

Once again I find myself having to write to you both on behalf of over 500,000 people in the southeast regarding the state of services at University Hospital Waterford.

Aside from the lack of 24/7 which we need and were promised and which you will all be well aware has caused an untold number of unnecessary deaths, we also find that since 2012 the Department of Health and the HSE by aligning us with CUH has systematically stripped UHW of funding for many other vital services year on year comparable to other regional hospitals.

We now have some of the longest waiting lists in the country for treatment and procedures due primarily to theatre closures because of lack of funding from the DOH.

We now have patients sleeping on floors and chairs in waiting rooms and corridors in what was once one of the best functioning hospitals in the country.

We now have a Department of Psychiatry in absolute crisis because of lack of funding, with what can only be described as inhumane conditions putting the safety of both vulnerable patients and staff at risk every single day.

We now have an ED that is like something you would see in a war torn country most weekends with patients being left sit for ours in the waiting room and then being sent home because there are no services at the weekends and some have died because staff simply cannot do the job they are trained to do through no fault of their own.

We now have a mortuary that is completely unfit for purpose.

You and your government colleagues with the assistance of FF, aided and abetted by senior civil servants in the DOH, have created this mess and you are systematically denying the people of the southeast access to safe services at their regional hospital, especially life-saving 24/7 cardiac care.

But we say enough is enough now. Every person who dies needlessly because of your failure to fund vital services is more blood on your hands. It is time you faced these facts and took responsibility for your actions.

This is not an Ireland for all at all. It is an Ireland for the entitled and privileged in Dublin at the expense of the ordinary people across the country who work hard to pay their taxes which is supposed to fund public services and in a fair and functioning democracy would do so.

What services are the people of the southeast getting? I think you both know the answer to that and you both need to fix this now by immediately allocating the necessary funding to UHW to address the issues I have raised above.

Remember, it is not your money you are spending, it is ours and we have every right to expect value for money and equity of access to safe hospital services at our regional hospital.

I look forward to hearing from you with your proposals to deal with this situation.

Yours sincerely

Hilary O’Neill

Chairperson

South East Patent Advocacy Group (SEPAG)

on behalf of 500,000 people in the southeast

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