“Minister Harris must take questions in the Dáil about National Maternity Hospital protected disclosure” – Tóibín
Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín TD has called on the Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris to take questions in the Dáil in relation to a protected disclosure made to him in 2018 by a hospital consultant which raised concerns about clinical genetic services at the National Maternity Hospital.
Deputy Tóibín said:
“The Sunday Times Newspaper today revealed that a hospital consultant’s protected disclosure issued in November 2018 to the Minister for Health and to Dr Tony Holohan, the Chief Medical Officer, went ignored by the Department. The protected disclosure warned of ‘catastrophic consequences’ since staff were being deprived of expert advice when considering the results of genetic testing. We know that a short time later a perfectly healthy baby was aborted in the National Maternity Hospital, after initial tests had incorrectly indicated that the baby had Edwards’ Syndrome. The parents of baby Christopher are taking a case against the hospital and I have raised their plight many times in the Dáil chamber”.
Deputy Tóibín continued: “It is my belief, given that Simon Harris was the Minister for Health at the time who received, but did not act on, this protected disclosure, he must make himself available this week for questions and answers in the Dáil on this topic. Serious questions remain as to why this disclosure was ignored, and why, when the case became public, he did not inform the house that he had previously received a protected disclosure which warned him of the problems associated with the practice of outsourcing clinical genetic testing. When I submitted a Parliamentary Question on the subject last year the Minister did not answer it. My understanding is that as late as July last year, months after the mistaken abortion the clinical genetic services were still not in place at the hospital. This is a serious public health issue”.
“Further questions remain about why the State is covering the legal costs of the private clinic – Merrion Foetal Health – where the test was carried out. This private clinic in question is run by obstetricians/ gynaecologists who also work in the National Maternity Hospital. In June 2019, a Private Members Bill in the name of Stephen Donnelly was carried unanimously in the house seeking to ensure that the new National Maternity Hospital would not have separate facilities for private patients. Despite the government supporting this Bill, Minister Harris said a few weeks later that consultants were entitled to engage in private practice ‘on-site’, and that “there is an obligation to provide facilities to consultants holding such contracts”. This seems in contradiction to the findings of the De Buitléir report, and the Minister’s response to the publication of that report. These are serious questions that Minister Harris should make time to answer in the Dáil chamber this week”, concluded Tóibín.