Member of HSE ‘Grace’ panel continues to work for public service

HSE director general to appear before PAC to correct evidence given on case last year

One member of the Health Service Executive panel who left the intellectually disabled woman known as "Grace" in an allegedly abusive foster home is still working for the public service, the head of the Health Service Executive has confirmed.

HSE director general Tony O’Brien will on Thursday appear before the Dáil public accounts committee to correct evidence he gave last year in relation to the controversial case.

In February 2016, Mr O'Brien told the committee that the three people involved in making the key decision in Grace's case were "no longer in the public service". The panel referred to decided in 1996 to overturn an earlier decision to remove Grace from the foster home, where allegations of abuse had been made.

Earlier this month, during a scheduled appearance by the HSE head on other matters, TDs accused him of misleading the committee on the issue. Mr O’Brien was told to return to the committee in a fortnight after saying he was not adequately briefed to provide a comprehensive answer.


‘Part-time’ work

Mr O’Brien wrote this week to the committee chairman, Fianna Fáil’s Seán Fleming, to say he wished to correct the record of the information he provided to the committee in February 2016. One official, identified in reports as “H3”, while retired from the HSE, is currently “in public service on a part-time basis in Tusla”.

According to Mr O’Brien, H3 retired from the HSE in 2012 and is in receipt of a full HSE pension. “It was on this basis that I stated that H3 is retired from the public service also.”

Since then he has established that H3 provides some specialist clinical services to Tusla on a part-time contract basis.

The examination of records was not straightforward as H3 has a number of payroll numbers, for pay and pension, across the HSE and Tusla, and the financial/payroll system is not sufficiently integrated to allow these numbers to be attributed to one person, he says.

Mr O’Brien is also likely to face questions over his contention before the committee last year that the HSE was unable to begin disciplinary investigations against staff until gardaí cleared an official report on the issue for publication.

A commission of investigation has been established to determine why Grace was placed in the foster home in the southeast for 13 years after abuse allegations caused the health board to remove other residents.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times