Hospital board `outraged' by department statements

 

The conflict between the Department of Health and the board of the new hospital at Tallaght, Co Dublin, about financial management sharpened last night with a strong statement from the hospital board. The board's chairman, Ms Rosemary French, said the Minister for Health, Mr Cowen, was failing the people in the new hospital and the people of Tallaght and she now feels "totally betrayed by the outrageous statements" made by the department last week.

The controversial report on massive cost overruns at Tallaght Hospital will be published as soon as the Department of Health receives a response from the hospital board, according to official sources.

The report by management consultants Deloitte and Touche, which is critical of hospital management and the department, was presented to Mr Cowen last week. Mr Cowen said the report indicated "serious governance and general management problems at the hospital".

The statement last night reads: "The chairman of the board of the Adelaide and Meath Hospital Dublin, incorporating the National Children's Hospital is deeply concerned at the failure of the Department of Health and Children to live up to its undertakings, in particular those made by the secretary general of the Department of Health and Children [Mr Jerry O'Dwyer] to the new hospital at Tallaght.

"The chairman is reluctantly forced to conclude that the Minister for Health and Children and the Department Of Health and Children are failing the new hospital and the people of Tallaght. It is anticipated that the board will have to consider seriously how it will be possible at the most senior level of Government, to re-establish a positive working relationship with the department.

"The hospital has on record many statements made by Mr O'Dwyer and his officials of their determination to support and fund adequately the hospital during the merger of the three base hospitals and move to Tallaght on the 21st June 1998.

"After many months of growing concern about the failure of the department to fulfil in practical terms its responsibilities to fund the hospital appropriately, the chairman has finally and reluctantly lost confidence in the department.

"The chairman has been appalled by the breach of trust by the Department of Health and Children, which had undertaken not to comment in public on the Deloitte and Touche report until the board had had an opportunity to consider it.

"The Department of Health and Children released a critical and biased statement to the press on Wednesday evening while the board was meeting. This deception has been compounded by the leaking of a confidential Department of Health and Children memorandum in the Sunday papers, and the premature, hasty and misleading statement by the Minister for Health and Children to the Dail last Thursday, which did not reflect the balance of the Deloitte and Touche report. The chairman has been forced to conclude that the Department of Health and Children has set out to campaign against and pillory the hospital."

The board last night set out a series of detailed questions for the Minister and its officials to answer.

The board also expressed its total confidence in the chief executive, Dr David McCutcheon, who has masterminded the hugely successful transfer of patients and medical services to the new site and taken on many extra responsibilities.