Wednesday, 13 May 1992
Dáil Éireann Debate
54. Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Health if he has considered appointing an inspectorate of international repute to examine the procedures for care of patients in Beaumont neurosurgery unit, Dublin, 9, so that the public could have full confidence in these procedures; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
78. Mr. Shatter asked the Minister for Health if he has considered appointing an inspectorate of international repute to examine the procedures for care of patients in Beaumont neurosurgery unit, Dublin 9, so that the public could have full confidence in these procedures; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
As I have already indicated to the House, I have taken a particular interest in this matter since becoming Minister for Health. I am anxious, above all, that matters relating to the neurosurgical unit be resolved so as to allay any fears that the public may have in relation to standards of care at the hospital.
 The Deputies will be aware that an ongoing inquiry is already being conducted by the Fitness to Practice Committee of the Medical Council into allegations against staff working in the hospital's neurosurgical unit.
In addition, I have also established a committee of inquiry in relation to one of the six consultant neurosurgeons at the neurosurgical unit in accordance with the terms of his contract with his employing authority. If the committee of inquiry, following their deliberations, make certain recommendations, an appeal will lie with me as Minister for Health.
In these circumstances, I am sure the House will appreciate that, in fairness to all the parties involved, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further on the matter pending the outcome of these inquiries.
Mr. R. Bruton: Does the Minister accept that all the inquiries to which he referred are being conducted in private and that other than the findings — other then the net point — will never be made available to the public? Would he not agree that holding inquiry after inquiry, inquests and court case after court case is not conducive to restoring public confidence? Will he take immediate action to appoint a team of experts, as suggested in the question, who would examine the procedures and establish a Protocol to which everyone within the unit could subscribe and, regardless of what happened in the past, let us start working on a new system for the future?
Dr. O'Connell: I agree with the  Deputy. It was my intention to do as he suggested, but it was pre-empted by the decision of the hospital to suspend the consultant surgeon. I was obliged under the terms of the common contract between the employing authority and the consultant surgeon to set up this committee of inquiry into the allegation made. Second, I was obliged to set up an inquiry who would hold their proceedings in private. I had no control over this issue either. Third, the Medical Council inquiry, who have been in existence for over a year, and over whom I had no control whatsoever, meet in private to protect the good name and reputation of the parties concerned until a decision is made. I had no control over that inquiry or the inquiry into the allegations made against the consultant concerned.
Mr. R. Bruton: Is it not the case that the Minister has the absolute power to require an inspectorate to go in there and to specify the make-up of that inspectorate? It is not true to say he was pre-empted from doing this by a decision of the hospital board. Surely, the Minister would agree, the hospital board are entitled to pursue whatever course of action they see fit. Would the Minister not accept that he, as Minister, must ensure that public confidence is restored in the way I suggested, and with which he appeared to agree?
Dr. O'Connell: The Deputy can be assured that as soon as these inquiries are completed — I expect them to be concluded by early autumn at the latest — I will set up a proper inquiry into the standard of care in that unit. On the basis of that inquiry, I will take the necessary steps so that there will be no further complaints about that neurosurgical unit.
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