Whistleblower claims he has been ostracised by health service

Dr Ankur Sharma treated ‘as if non-existent’ since revealing Camhs child overmedication

The whistleblower in the South Kerry Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (Camhs) controversy says he plans to leave Ireland reluctantly after being sidelined and ostracised in the health service here.

Dr Ankur Sharma, whose concerns about overmedication and misdiagnosis of children were vindicated in an official report, says he is being treated "as if I'm non-existent".

The Indian-born consultant psychiatrist says he would prefer to continue working in Ireland “to complete the task I started” but adds that “no one will talk to me”.

Dr Sharma has said the issues identified in South Kerry are not confined to that area and that there were serious problems in several other Camhs units in which he worked as a locum.

“I believe everything will go back to the way it was before, until the next disaster unfolds,” he told The Irish Times.

He was due to take up a new locum post in Co Monaghan this week but says this was cancelled “at the last minute” after his agency was told the Health Service Executive had “potentially” found someone to take up a permanent position.

His previous posting in Co Clare ended early, he says, when he was put on gardening leaving after making a complaint alleging racial discrimination.

“My specialist skills are wasted. I’m sitting here, doing nothing, jobless. I’m so tired, but my conscience won’t rest.”

Reaction of colleagues

Dr Sharma says he asked colleagues in the College of Psychiatrists to suggest points he might make when appearing in the media but “I got zero emails and not a single colleague reached out to me.”

As a consequence, he believes he is being “ostracised” by his fellow Camhs specialists.

He said he plans to write to the Oireachtas health committee to be asked to appear before it.

Earlier this week, HSE officials refused to answer questions at the committee about the treatment of Dr Sharma, who says he was asked to take time off from South Kerry Camhs after his disclosures and was reassigned to other duties.

In January, a report found 240 children in South Kerry had received substandard care, and 46 had suffered significant harm. Dr Sharma had raised concerns about their treatment immediately on starting work in the service in 2020.

HSE chief executive Paul Reid wrote to Dr Sharma last month expressing gratitude "for having had the professional integrity and strength of character to persist with your concerns and to insist that they be addressed".

Mr Reid said it was his “strong intention that all of our staff would feel not only professionally obligated but also supported by their employer to come forward where they have concerns about potential wrongdoing in the workplace.

Bullying claims

“It is a matter of great concern to me that anyone would feel unsupported when they come forward which, I am aware you have indicated in media reports, is how you felt.”

Dr Sharma responded with a 10-page letter to Mr Reid setting out his belief that South Kerry is “not an isolated event” and an account of his treatment in the health service after he blew the whistle.

Some Camhs services placed emergency cases, such as children who had suffered overdoses, on “priority waiting lists” rather than seeing them immediately, according to Dr Sharma.

His letter also details examples of dysfunctional workplace relations and alleged bullying by management in some areas.

He outlines how in South Kerry he was progressively sidelined, had his clinics cancelled and was relegated to administrative duties after his discovery that 55 children were on “harmful cocktails of psychotropic medication and lost to clinical follow-up” for years.

He claims he was subjected to bullying, intimidation, harassment and invasion of privacy, and that his office was “ransacked” on one occasion.

HSE officials told the Oireachtas health committee this week that an internal review of Dr Sharma’s treatment had begun, led by a human resources manager. On this basis, they declined to answer TDs’ questions on the issue.

The HSE has also begun a review of the prescribing practices of Camhs units nationwide for children with ADHD.