The editor of the Sunday Business Post tonight said the "confidential internal HSE document" on which the newspaper's front page story last weekend was based is "legitimate and genuine" after the HSE released a statement calling for it to be released.
The newspaper quoted from an internal HSE memo which it claimed promoted the manipulation of hospital waiting lists. While the memo was from one HSE region it stated the practice was happening “throughout the health service in all clinical areas”.
A statement from the HSE’s national press office tonight said it had “expressed its disappointment and frustration” to the Sunday newspaper at its “unwillingness to release any details of a ‘confidential internal HSE document’ that it claims to have in its possession.
“According to the newspaper, the document was sent to HSE staff urging them ‘to manipulate waiting lists’. The HSE was not contacted by the Sunday newspaper prior to the publication of the article. The HSE has no knowledge of such an internal document.
“At this juncture, the HSE finds it very difficult to comment on the allegations made in the article, and subsequent reportage, as it has very limited information. In this regard, the HSE sought from one of the authors of the article the following: a copy of the document, should such a document exist at all, [OR]some elementary details in order to allow the HSE to better understand the context of the document.
“This includes the year that the document was supposedly sent, the author of the document (or the level at which the author operates), and the region or area from which the document supposedly emanated.”
The new editor of the Sunday Business Post Ian Kehoe told The Irish Times tonight he has arranged to meet with the HSE tomorrow in order to discuss the matter, but that the newspaper "will stand by the story".
“The memo is legitimate and genuine,” he said. “If we publish the memo, there is a very strong chance we reveal the source and that’s not something I’m willing to do. It 100 per cent exists.” He said the memo was sent at a senior level in the HSE “in the past three or four months”.
“I suggested the meeting when I saw the statement,” he said “I hadn’t had any contact from the HSE up until I saw the statement. Obviously I’m willing to sit down and talk to them about it if they’re raising concerns.
“The HSE doesn’t seem to be arguing with the tenet of our story, which is that this practice seems to be widespread in the HSE, a fact alluded to again by a number of consultants who spoke on the record in our piece, and by John Crown on Morning Ireland on Monday.
“There was much more to the article than simply the memo. There was also a number of on the record quotes from senior practitioners who talked about the practice of what was going on. The HSE can address those points.”
The HSE statement added it wished “to make it clear that it has no policy in relation to manipulating waiting lists”.
“The HSE would never condone any such action,” it said. “Had the HSE been aware that any manager urged employees to manipulate waiting lists, if at all, this would be the subject of appropriate disciplinary action.
“The HSE suggests that it is neither just nor equitable that the Sunday newspaper in question did not contact the HSE prior to publishing the article. This would have allowed the HSE to bring a modicum of balance to an otherwise one-sided article.
“Furthermore, the HSE considers it unreasonable that the Sunday newspaper now chooses not to release some elementary detail of the internal document when requested. This would allow the HSE to deal with many questions posed to the organisation in an objective manner.”