Clinician responsible for child-hearing errors, says Taoiseach

Varadkar: Inquiry under consideration but priority is service for those children affected

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar: “Accountability lies with the person who actually made the mistake – the clinician who did not do their job properly.” Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar: “Accountability lies with the person who actually made the mistake – the clinician who did not do their job properly.” Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

The clinician who tested children’s hearing in Mayo and Roscommon is responsible for the mistakes in audiology services for which the HSE has apologised and not the Government or any Minister, the Taoiseach has told the Dáil.

Leo Varadkar also said the Government will consider an independent inquiry into the failures in audiology services. But he said the main priority is to disclose the information to all those affected and to ensure those who need medical care and educational supports receive them.

He was responding to Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald who highlighted the RTÉ Investigates finding that almost 60 families in the west had received written apologies from the HSE in recent weeks over services provided to their children following a look-back audit. Last year another 49 families had received apologies for similar failings, when hearing difficulties were either not diagnosed or children were not sent for follow-up.

The audiologist at the centre of the controversy no longer works in the State.

Ms McDonald highlighted the case of 11-year-old James from Mayo whose parents were unaware of his hearing impairment until they received a letter recently from the HSE in recent weeks apologising for the lack of care. Six years ago they were told their son’s hearing was fine but he is now in fifth class and has received no treatment for his hearing impairment, she said.

‘Failing health service’

The parents had called for an independent inquiry as they had no idea how long the process would take to complete, said Ms McDonald as she asked Mr Varadkar to agree to the inquiry and to say who would be held accountable for the failings.

“It is clear that our health services are failing all of us and our children,” she said.

The Taoiseach told him that the person responsibility was “the clinician who made the mistake, carried out the hearing tests and either failed to diagnose or ensure the children and people affected had the proper follow-up”.

He told Ms McDonald that “it’s not about Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael or Micheál Martin or Simon Harris”.

He said the Sinn Féin leader “tries to turn everything into a political attack, but, of course, accountability lies with the person who actually made the mistake – the clinician who did not do their job properly and did not carry out the test correctly, or having diagnosed the hearing loss, did not ensure the patients affected had the appropriate follow-up”.

The Taoiseach said the problem was identified internally. “The HSE assistant clinical lead for audiology services identified the problem and acted on it. I understand the people who made the mistakes are no longer working for the public health service.”