Tallaght hospital trying to gag me, says whistleblower

Dr James Gray revealed 91-year-old spent 29 hours on trolley in emergency department

Dr James Gray says hosptial has been trying to intimidate him “for years” due to his repeated criticism of overcrowding in the emergency department. Photograph: Getty Images

The whistleblower who revealed a 91-year-old spent 29 hours on a trolley in Tallaght hospital has accused his employer of trying to silence him.

Emergency department doctor James Gray described as intimidation the decision by the hospital to order an internal inquiry into the leaking of the patient's personal details.

He told The Irish Times the hospital has been trying to intimidate him “for years” due to his repeated criticism of overcrowding in the emergency department.

His concerns were shared by the other three consultants in the department, he said.


Dr Gray said he felt "protected" and didn't think the hospital had a case for disciplining him. He accused the hospital of leaking personal patient details by facilitating Minister for Health Leo Varadkar to talk to the 91-year-old directly.

Mr Varadkar has said the patient was happy with the care provided while the hospital said he was unhappy with the leaking of his case to the media and the way the story was represented.

Dr Gray acknowledged that overcrowding in Tallaght was not as bad as in some other hospitals but added: “one patient on a trolley is one patient too many, especially for over 24 hours”.


He said he hasn’t heard from the hospital since it announced the internal inquiry earlier this week.

Dr Gray said he started advocating for patients in 2009 out of frustration at the daily sight of dozens of trolleys in the emergency department. In 2010, he wrote twice to Health Information Quality Authority (Hiqa), whose inspectors visited the hospital and expressed concerns.

He said there was no improvement and in the following year, a patient, Thomas Walsh, died on a trolley in the hospital. Mr Gray was highly critical of the situation in the department when giving evidence at Mr Walsh's inquest in 2012, at which the coroner returned an open verdict and remarked that Tallaght seemed a "very dangerous place".

This prompted Hiqa’s first statutory inquiry into a hospital, which made wide-ranging recommendations for changes in Tallaght and other hospitals across the state.

Dr Gray said he continued to write to chief executives in the hospital but felt intimidated when his complaints were referred to the hospital’s lawyers, who “took a swipe” at him in reply.

“I felt if was threatening. I wrote back to the CEO [chief executive] saying I remained concerned, but things never progressed beyond that.”

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is a former heath editor of The Irish Times.