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30,000 GP letters “even more serious than x-rays” – Ó Caoláin

11 March, 2010 - by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD


Sinn Féin Health & Children spokesperson and Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has described as “astounding” the fact that an estimated 30,000 GP referral letters were left unopened or did not reach the consultants for whom they were intended at Tallaght. Deputy Ó Caoláin called for the recall of Health Minister Mary Harney from New Zealand to address the crisis.

He said:

“During Private Notice Questions on the Tallaght Hospital scandal on Wednesday I highlighted the fact that HIQA had been told of GP letters of referral to Tallaght Hospital being left unopened. I asked if this was being investigated as part of the HSE inquiry. Minister of State Barry Andrews gave no clear answer.

“We have now learned that an estimated 30,000 GP referral letters were left unopened or did not reach the consultants for whom they were intended. That is astounding. It is even more serious than the 58,000 unread x-rays. It is a fundamental breakdown in our health services and a major threat to the health and safety of patients when communications between general practitioners and consultants are virtually non-existent.

“Where were the consultants when they should have been processing the referrals from GPs and reading the x-rays? Did they even know of their existence? Or were the consultants attending to their private practices? Was all this work left to junior hospital doctors? Are there neglected GP referral letters in hospitals across this State? These are huge questions in the minds of patients.

“The Taoiseach on Wednesday tried to excuse the absence of the Minister for Health & Children by saying that the St. Patrick’s Day events take place in New Zealand over the coming weekend. We now know that the Minister has been there since last Monday and proposes to be there until Sunday week, 21 March. The Taoiseach has insulted the Dáil and the people and the Minister has done likewise.

“The Minister for Health & Children should be recalled from New Zealand. The Dáil should not adjourn until 23 March, as proposed by the Government, but should resume next week for a full day with the Minister coming in here to answer questions and report fully on this scandal.” ENDS

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