Waterford Hospital says it got no complaint about mortuary from staff or public

No evidence to ‘substantiate claims contained in recent correspondence’, hospital claims

The mortuary at University Hospital Waterford. Photograph: Patrick Browne

The mortuary at University Hospital Waterford. Photograph: Patrick Browne

 

University Hospital Waterford has said it currently has “no evidence that would substantiate the claims contained in recent correspondence” about the state of the hospital mortuary.

Its statement on Monday evening comes several days after the contents of a letter written last October by four consultant pathologists raising concerns about facilities at the mortuary were made public.

In their letter the consultants had highlighted the fact that dead bodies had been left lying on trolleys at the hospital, leaking bodily fluids onto corridors and making closed-coffin funerals unavoidable in some cases.

The letter had been sent to Gerry O’Dwyer, chief executive of the South - South West Hospital Group in Cork, and released under the Freedom of Information Act.

Signed by consultant pathologists Prof Rob Landers, Dr Fergus MacSweeney, Dr Nigam Shah and Dr Christine Shilling, all of UHW, they warned the mortuary lacked sufficient refrigeration and the situation is so serious that some bodies simply decompose, causing “almost unspeakable” distress to families.

On Friday, in response to the concerns raised, the the South/South West Hospital Group said a mobile refrigerated unit would be provided for bodies at the hospital mortuary within one to two weeks.

It also said an additional refrigeration unit would be on site and available for use in eight to 10 weeks.

On Monday evening in a further statement, ahead of the issue being raised at Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting, the South/South West Hospital Group said the hospital has not received any complaint from any member of the public regarding the mortuary at University Hospital Waterford.

It also said it is “not in receipt of any incident report form from any staff member in relation to the mortuary at University Hospital Waterford”.

And it said, “The SSWHG and University Hospital Waterford currently have no evidence that would substantiate the claims contained in recent correspondence.”

It said it had been fully aware of the challenge associated with the mortuary infrastructure at the hospital for some considerable time.

“The development of a new replacement mortuary for UHW has been on the HSE Capital plan since 2014 and planning permission for the proposed new mortuary was received in 2016. In addition, efforts to resolve the matter resulted in a replacement mortuary for UHW being placed on the HSE’s capital programme. Approval to proceed to tender was received in March, 2019. The current programme for this will see the new facility being delivered within approx. 2 years,” it added.

Hiqa

Since reports last week about the consultant’s letter raising concerns about the mortuary it said it had received a query from one family. “The hospital are currently engaging with the family concerned”.

It wished to reassure the public it said “that all deceased patients are treated with respect and dignity”.

Waterford Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane said we now have “several claims and counter claims by the hospital and by the consultants, and we now need to establish the facts”.

“The public need to know what happened,” he added.

He said he understood that the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has now been contacted by the hospital.

“It raises questions about the processes and procedures at mortuaries around the country, not just in Waterford,” he added.

Waterford Oireachtas members have agreed to write to the chair of the Oireachtas Health Committee to ask for all stakeholders including hospital management, the chief executive of the hospital group and the consultant pathologists to appear before it to examine the claims.

Prof Landers did not respond to requests for comment.