Whistleblower who raised concerns over patients' welfare gets job back

Wed, Jan 25, 2012, 00:00

A WHISTLEBLOWER who was last week dismissed from her post as a trainee advocate in the mental health services after she publicly expressed concern for the welfare of female patients at St Brendan’s Hospital, Grangegorman, Dublin, has been reinstated.

Louise Bayliss, a separated mother of two from Dublin, who had been training as an advocate with the Irish Advocacy Network, will resume training but will not be permitted back on hospital wards until her training is complete.

She will also be required to comply fully with the network’s code of practice which states advocates must raise any concern with their immediate superior first, and they must not take action including speaking out publicly, unless asked to do so by the network or a client/patient.

Following public and political disquiet at Ms Bayliss’s dismissal last Tuesday, the network yesterday offered to reinstate her.

In early December she spoke on RTÉ’s Liveline, drawing attention to the closure of an “open” unit for female patients in St Brendan’s Hospital over Christmas, the separation of the patients from each other over the holiday period and their consequent distress.

She was removed from ward work some days later and was last week told she was being let go.

A number of TDs including Joe Costello (Labour), Richard Boyd Barrett (United Left Alliance) and Derek Keating (Fine Gael) were among those who called for her reinstatement.

Yesterday, Colette Nolan, chief executive of the Irish Advocacy Network, said: “After more in-depth and intensive consultation with colleagues in the organisation over the last few days we realise we made an error in this regard.” She said it had therefore offered to reinstate with immediate effect Ms Bayliss and another worker whose contract had been terminated last week.

Ms Nolan made clear the Health Service Executive had no role in her organisation’s decision to let the trainees go nor in their decision to offer to reinstate them.

A spokeswoman for the network later explained that in recent years trainee advocates were also working on the wards “to fill gaps in our service provision” due to “pressure” on the organisation.

“Having thought about it Irish Advocacy Network concluded it was not her fault she breached the code of conduct. She didn’t actually know and she, under the old training model, shouldn’t have been on the wards. So the network is going back to the old model where it’s all completed in a classroom setting.” A new training programme would be put in place from the end of February.

Ms Bayliss said yesterday she was “delighted” to get her job back though would not want it with “undue restrictions” on her.

“I’m delighted Irish Advocacy Network has taken this decision. I look forward to working with them long-term and I hope it will be a healthy and a constructive relationship for both of us.

“What was done to me was wrong but what was done to the patients is an awful lot worse.”

Whistleblower support organisation Transparency International Ireland, said Ms Bayliss’s case was “only the tip of the iceberg”. Chief executive John Devitt said: “We have been receiving calls from whistleblowers who have been dismissed for raising concerns about everything from patient safety to fraud.”