Drogheda hospital rostered 15 doctors with no Garda vetting

Staff had been through HSE vetting process only before Hiqa intervention

Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda: arrangements were made to fast-track the Garda vetting of affected staff. Photograph: Alan Betson

Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda: arrangements were made to fast-track the Garda vetting of affected staff. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Up to 15 junior doctors in hospitals in the northeast were working until recently without proper Garda vetting until a query was raised by the State’s health watchdog.

The nonconsultant hospital doctors were taken off the roster at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda and other hospitals in the RCSI hospital group, until their vetting was fast-tracked.

The incident has highlighted the difficulties many hospitals experience in having newly recruited staff, many of them from overseas, vetted quickly enough to be able to take up their duties at the start of the twice-yearly rotations of nonconsultant hospital doctors.

The staff were taken off the roster after the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) wrote to the hospital on May 24th seeking assurances that all staff had completed Garda clearance in line with HSE guidelines, relevant legislation and national standards.

Hiqa said it had information suggesting Our Lady of Lourdes may not have had arrangements in place to ensure that all medical staff underwent Garda vetting prior to beginning employment. It gave the hospital one week to provide the assurances sought.

The hospital, in a reply dated June 6th and obtained under freedom of information, said all staff rostered for duty were fully compliant with Garda vetting. One member of staff was completing the process and would not be rostered for duty until compliant.

Vetted by HSE

One local source said up to 15 doctors were found to have been vetted by the HSE but not by gardaí when checks were carried out after the Hiqa letter was received. Arrangements were made to fast-track the Garda vetting of affected staff, in some cases by routing their applications through voluntary hospitals with faster processes. All were successfully vetted and no issues arose in relation to their records.

A spokesman for RCSI hospital group confirmed a “bureaucratic” issue had arisen that has since been resolved. He said “a small number” of nonconsultant hospital doctors had been through the HSE vetting process only, which had been thought to be sufficient, but Hiqa had stated that all staff must be Garda vetted.

The HSE carries out Garda clearance on all new employees, who are not allowed to take up duty until the process has been completed. Applicants are required to provide clearance certificates for the countries in which they have lived and studied.

Under normal conditions, it can take up to six weeks to complete the vetting process for medical staff working in HSE hospitals, according to doctors familiar with the process. This creates particular problems for staff coming to work in the Irish health service from overseas; whereas copies of personal documents are accepted for visa and work-permit applications, original documents are required for Garda vetting.