Crown says staff at Vincent’s were ‘lions led by donkeys’

Administrative reaction since 2002 to hospital charging for free drugs was ‘cover-up’

St Vincent’s hospital nursing and medical staff were “lions led by donkeys”, Independent Senator John Crown claimed as he hit out at the institution’s board structures yesterday.

He told the Seanad that ample evidence was available to show St Vincent’s private hospital administration was aware “at multiple levels” that charging the VHI for high-cost cancer drugs provided free to the medical facility was not an error.

Prof Crown criticised a statement from St Vincent's Hospital Group in December that the billing was a "genuine error". He said there were "ample documents which show that this was not an error, that this was something that was known at multiple levels through the administration of the private hospital at the time".

He said his problems were specifically with the board structures of organisations within St Vincent’s. “One cannot get a better example since the first World War of lions led by donkeys than the situation as applied in this case.”


The NUI Senator first raised the issue in the Seanad before Christmas when he accused the management and board of St Vincent’s hospital of a “cover-up” of fraud at the facility by deliberately charging health insurers for medicines it received free, a situation that began in 2002.

The VHI was subsequently repaid €1 million, which it said “had been raised incorrectly”.

Prof Crown said it could be argued that 2002 was a different time, “that standards were different, that things were laxer, that there was a bit of a cowboy mentality at play in various parts of the public service”.

However, he added: “The administrative reaction to it then and since has been, I believe, extremely unsatisfactory and constitutes a cover-up.”

Of his December comments, he said: “I shoulI have nothing but respect for the sterling work done by my nursing and medical colleagues in St Vincent’s.”

d have been more precise when I dissociated myself and my activities from the board of St Vincent’s hospital, not from the hospital itself. I have nothing but respect for the sterling work done by my nursing and medical colleagues in St Vincent’s.”

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times