Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Tuesday, 2 February 2016
Public Accounts Committee
HSE Report on Foster Home in Waterford Community Care Area: Discussion
I thank the witnesses for their time. A lot of what I would like to have said has already been said, so I will not go over a lot of it. Initially when this came up for the Committee on Public Accounts, I thought it was not the appropriate place for this type of situation but when one looks at it, the whistleblower was so desperate to get anything done this is the path the person had to come down. To me, it is mind-blowing - absolutely mind-blowing - the amount of to-ing and fro-ing that has been done by the HSE about an apology. The whole thing about this was a cover-up and a protection of the HSE rather than protecting the people the HSE is actually paid to protect. I think the amount of time that has been wasted - HSE staff, time and money - about an apology, when all that time and money could have been invested in clients, is outrageous.
With this in mind, it is no wonder the health service struggles like it does if this is the type of carry-on that goes on in it. I think it must be very difficult for parents and families of the service users, and I am going to call them victims in this case, that they have to go through this and that they were so helpless that they could not help and protect their loved ones. They depended on the HSE to do that and it was not done. I would like to ask about the people who worked in these services. Where are they now? Were they fired? Were they ever held accountable for what happened? They should have been held accountable. In most jobs in this day and age, and for the past while, one goes through an appraisal on a regular basis. Did these staff ever have an appraisal? As politicians we have appraisals every five years, and if one does not do one's job properly one loses one's job. These people should be held accountable.
There are a few things by which I am really bothered. In the case of Ann, Mr. O'Brien said in his opening statement that in October 2013 the HSE formally demanded that the service stop being used. Why was that not done before this? Why did the HSE wait until 2013 to formally demand that this would happen? If it could do it why did it not do it before? Why did it wait? Mr. O'Brien spoke about the €225,000 in combined reports, in the two reports, rather. That money, I would suggest, would probably have provided a person-centred individual service for a client with an intellectual disability for a year at least, for at least two or three clients for one year, and this money was wasted on reports and other things.
I will ask all of my questions and the witnesses can come back in, because I am so annoyed that if I stop now I might forget. In the HSE's report to the Committee on Public Accounts in December 2015, one of the things on page 6 was the 47 clients and the way the HSE broke them down. It stated three could not be traced. That is unbelievable, that there are three clients of the HSE who cannot be traced and nobody knows where they are. Are they missing? I ask the witnesses to tell me about that, please. I would like to know how much money was spent. Deputy McDonald might have asked this question, and the HSE cannot tell how much money was spent, which to me is ridiculous. It loses clients and it does not know how much is being spent on the service.
Mr. Healy spoke about the downturn in the economy and said it had an effect on the disability services. I have to say to him that no amount of money could provide or can pay for this. This is not about money. This is about a properly run health service. It is about a properly run system. Mr. O'Brien said the HSE does not have legal authority to end an arrangement like the one in this case. It may not have a legal authority, but it certainly has a moral authority. If it knew there was something going on I think the HSE had a moral obligation to look after that person. If I worked there and if I had a child, I would not want it to be in a situation like that. I am so annoyed now that I am going to forget something.
Mr. Healy said Ann was assessed when she graduated at 18. Presumably, the assessment was by a psychologist. What kind of assessment was that and what was its purpose? Was it educational? At what stage was Ann at that time? Did alarm bells not ring for the psychologist when Ann was assessed at 18? If either of the delegates could answer those questions for me, I would appreciate it.