St Vincent’s accused of fraud over cancer drug sales

Independent senator says hospital charged private insurers for free medicines it used

Independent Senator John Crown has 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.

Professor Crown, a consultant medical oncologist at St Vincent's University Hospital, said documents had recently come into his possession which "show conclusively that there was a cover-up" by management and the board at the hospital.

He said “members of the staff of the hospital had been deliberately and fraudulently charging private health insurers in respect of cancer drugs which had been provided to that institution for free”, a fraud that began in 2002.

They were fraudulently taking money from the Voluntary Health Insurance (VHI) of which the Minister for Health is the sole shareholder, he said, as well as other private health insurers.

This came to his attention in 2002 when he notified the "relevant authorities, the Irish Medicines Board, at the time".

Prof Crown said “an investigation began and inexplicably stopped and was reformatted several days later”.

He said that at the time “substantial intimidation was brought to bear” but he believed that the documentation now meant that the issue could be investigated further.

And he called on leader of the Seanad Maurice Cummins (FG) to bring the issue to the Minister's attention.

Speaking under privilege in the Seanad he said: “Documents recently come into my possession which I’m quite happy to discuss and share with the Minister for Health because they refer to money that was fraudulently taken from the Voluntary Health Insurance, of which he is the sole shareholder and of other private insurers”.

He said these were “documents which show conclusively that there was a cover-up conducted by the management and board of St Vincent’s hospital in respect of this”.

“Substantial intimidation was brought to bear at the time that the whistle was blown on this 10 years ago but I believe in the light of new documents coming my way and in light of the increased scrutiny of the public affairs committee that it is now time for this matter to be further investigated.”

The NUI Senator said: “I have long been troubled on many fronts by the way in which the board of my hospital in particular and other hospitals do their business.

“I would like to personally dissociate myself and any research organisations, that I have the privilege of running, from any connection with the St Vincent’s hospital group or St Vincent’s hospital foundation.”

He added: “The board of St Vincent’s hospital does not enjoy my confidence.”

Prof Crown asked Seanad leader Maurice Cummins of Fine Gael, to bring the matter to the attention of Minister for Health James Reilly.

Mr Cummins said: “Certainly I’ll bring the matter to the attention of the Minister if the Senator wishes to provide me with any paperwork. I’ll certainly furnish the Minister with those documents.”

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is a parliamentary reporter with The Irish Times

Michael O'Regan

Michael O'Regan

Michael O’Regan is a former parliamentary correspondent of The Irish Times