Anger at HSE refusal to issue public apology to mental health services staff

The Health Service Executive’s (HSE) refusal to issue a public apology to mental health services staff in South Tipperary, following last week’s publication of the long-awaited Shanker report, has been met with great disappointment. But support for an apology to past and present staff members of the service is gathering momentum and the pressure is still on the HSE to address the issue sooner rather than later.

The Health Service Executive’s (HSE) refusal to issue a public apology to mental health services staff in South Tipperary, following last week’s publication of the long-awaited Shanker report, has been met with great disappointment. But support for an apology to past and present staff members of the service is gathering momentum and the pressure is still on the HSE to address the issue sooner rather than later.

Subsequent to the publication last Wednesday of an independent medical report which found no evidence of non-accidental injuries to 18 patients of St. Luke’s Psychiatric Hospital and St. Michael’s Acute Unit in Clonmel, calls were made by the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) for the HSE to issue a public apology and to explain why it took more than two years to finally publish the report despite repeated requests.

In a statement to The Nationalist, the HSE said that it ‘has made the report available on its website’ and ‘isn’t adding to the statement’ it made last week.

John Hughes, South East regional secretary of the PNA said that he was very disappointed with the HSE and their lack of willingness to apologise to staff.

“If anyone was found to be involved in non-accidental injuries, you can imagine what publicity that would have received,” he said.

“When staff have been exonerated, there is no publicity about it, no comment and the report is buried three layers deep on the HSE’s website.”

He said that the delay in publication of the report which was completed in August 2009, had done serious damage to the reputation of hard-working and highly dedicated staff, past and present. He also added that it had done huge damage to the viability of St. Michael’s Acute Unit.

He is once again calling in the HSE to address the staff and offer the apology they have been seeking for so long.

The HSE commissioned the Shanker Report, so-called because it was carried out by a UK-based consultant orthopaedic surgeon Jai Shanker, to address concerns raised about fractures that were sustained by 18 patients over a two year period between January 1, 2006 and December 31, 2008.

Mr. Shanker reviewed the charts and associated A&E records and radiology reports, of the patients in order to establish if there was any evidence of ‘non accidental’ injury associated with the fractures. In addition, Mr Shanker was asked to look at the structures in place around clinical risk management for South Tipperary mental health services and make any recommendations as appropriate.

No evidence of wrongdoing by any staff member was found in the course of his review.

Mr. Hughes’s call for an apology to staff members of South Tipperary’s mental health services is now being backed by Independent TD Seamus Healy and MEP for Ireland South Phil Prendergast.

Deputy Healy, who sits on the Joint Oireachtas Committee for Health and Children said that he had raised the issue of the Shanker report consistently throughout 2011 in that forum, and now fully backs the call for the HSE to apologise to staff.

“It took more than two years to publish this report when there should have been no difficulty. They said that there was a need to make the report anonymous, that was one excuse given, but that wouldn’t have taken two years.

“I would certainly support John Hughes and the PNA on this. I have taken this up on a continual basis at the Joint Oireachtas Committee and I will be bringing it up again at the January meeting when I will request that the HSE issue an apology,” he said.

“The staff have lived under the shadow of that report for more than two years and certainly an apology should be made.”

Ms Prendergast said that it was a disgrace it had taken so long for the report to make it into the public domain and said that it was a cynical move, releasing it so close to Christmas.

“To leave that report lying in the ether for so long, casting suspicion over the staff, they have been treated very badly,” she said.

“I definitely think that the HSE should be issuing an apology for not publishing this report, because not doing so has negatively impacted on the staff and also on St. Michael’s Acute Unit,” she said, adding that some people would have taken the view that ‘there is no smoke without fire’ and non-publication of the report would have fuelled that belief.

The report is available on: (http://www.hse.ie/eng/services/Publications/services/Mentalhealth/tmrjshanker