If I say that cervical cancer articles are smeared all of the paper this week and last, Irish readers will know I am talking about the HSE, or Health and Safety Executive.
There would appear to be a huge disconnect between the medical world and the patients they exist for. But I am amazed at the horrified reaction to all this in some quarters. It is not as if we weren’t warned in the past. As late as 2010, the Irish Examiner ran a headline, “8,000 deaths from medical mishaps.”
At the time, ‘Patient Focus’s Jim Reilly said the figure was based on international evidence and indicated that a major culture shift was needed in Ireland’s healthcare system.’ It is obvious now that such a necessary major culture shift did not take place. Indeed if anything, the poisonous culture in bedded even deeper into the HSE.
“The patient support groups said a legal “duty of candour” must be enforced so healthcare organisations had to be open and sincere with patients when things went wrong.” That was eight years ago so think of Vicky Phelan today in the light of ‘open & sincere.’ In the Examiner today we read that, “The head of the national cancer control programme played down concerns about cancer patient Vicky Phelan’s case, advising it was not a “patient safety” matter.” Well Mr. Jerome Coffey, head of the national cancer control programme, your lot advertised for women to get the swear and you talked of early discovery leading to better outcomes, so the good woman took your advice and was tested. But your tests did not discover her cancer and she was given the all clear. As a result, she is now beyond care and is waiting for death to come. In my book, that is a “patient safety” matter. Indeed, it is the ultimate patient safety matter and if you can’t see that then you should not be where you are.
And how many other Vicky Phelans are out there today wondering if they have been wronged and neglected? During the storms of the winter Dr Varadkar made great play in the media about pulling out all the stops, using all of the State’s resources to ensure that not even one person died. Even one death was too much for him then as he stood under the glare of media spotlights.
“Medical negligence legal expert Michael Boylan said international evidence suggested that 4% of Irish patients are injured due to medical accidents. With more than four million hospital admissions or treatments every year, the injury rate of 4% equated to 160,000 patients,” according to the patient support groups back in 2010. Even at that time, Mr Boylan claimed the State Claims Agency saw its primary, if not sole, responsibility to minimise the financial exposure to the state as a consequence of medical accident claims, and this is exactly how they treated Vicky Phelan. The head of the State Claims Agency’s clinical indemnity scheme, Dr Ailis Quinlan said at the time, “Almost 84,000 adverse events were reported last year, (2009). Of 307,000 incidents notified to the scheme since 2004, 3,754 have resulted in claims being made. Last year we had 510 new claims and at any one time we have about 1,500 active claims,”
To back up this claim, in May 2014, the Examiner again reported that, “The HSE spent €255m fighting negligence cases.” That’s your money right there. And speaking of that money, a more up-to-date picture shows that HSE’s State Claims Agency’s estimated liability for active claims soared during 2017 by just under €400m to €1.92 billion. That is €1,920,000,000 to defend the HSE mistakes that should never have been made and creating many ‘Vicky Phelans’ in the process. The total spend at the HSE last year amounted to €14.57 billion and the Journal, (May 2018), has some interesting observations on it here.
I have long believed that when you hear the expressions, “Robust corporate governance” and “Best practice,” it is code for a really shitty organization with a poisonous culture, a sense of entitlement and a ruthless streak that will not permit any criticism of it. I have already seen both expressions from the HSE in regard to the Phelan controversy. In the past, we have seen Mary Harney, James Reilly and even Leo Varakar threaten to break up the HSE but instead, the HSE managed to break them up. Harney retired, Reilly was fucked out unceremoniously and Varadkar ran for his life.
But it is all just so depressing!
“Doctors argue and patients die.”