Tuesday, May 07, 2019

The mortuary at UHW.

2001 – The South Eastern Health Board centralises all post mortem activities to Waterford. Autopsies go from approximately 140 per year to 480 per year (currently at 600+ per year).


2003/4 – Health Service Executive (HSE) Estates Department visits the Mortuary building and concludes that it is “unfit for purpose”.


2012 – A HSE Building Conditions Report outlines in stark terms, the condition and unsuitability of the mortuary.


2014 – Project finally gets Capital Steering Group approval – a decade after serious issues with the mortuary were identified. It appears in the 2014 -2018 Capital Plan.


Oct 30, 2015 – The HSE apply for planning permission.


Dec 12, 2015 – Planning permission is granted by Waterford Council.


July 12, 2018 – Following a visit to the mortuary at the request of hospital management, Chief Operations Officer at the South South West Hospital Group contacts the Estates Department to say that he was “appalled at the poor condition of the building” and the “obvious health and safety and infection issues that exist there”.


October 18 2018 – With no sign of construction commencing and the Capital Plan now out of date, four Consultant Pathologists write to the CEO of the South South West Hospital Group (SSWHG) outlining the desperate conditions of the mortuary and the urgent need for it to be upgraded.


March 12 2019 – Waterford News & Star issued a Freedom of Information request in the name of Journalist Darren Skelton as follows: “In accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2014, I would like to request some information on correspondence between four pathologists at University Hospital Waterford and Mr Gerry O’Dwyer, CEO, of the South/South West Hospital Group about the Mortuary at UHW. The letter was sent in October, 2018 and is of significant public interest.”


March 20 2019 – The Waterford News & Star, having not received an acknowledgement of the FOI request, emailed the HSE once again to check if the request has been received.


March 22 2019 – The HSE issued an acknowledgment stating that a decision on the request is due to be made by April 10.

On this same day, the SSWHG CEO Mr Gerry O’Dwyer issues a response – 155 days after the initial letter was sent – advising that the new Assistant National Director of HSE Estates, Mr Mark Kane had been updated on the conditions of the Mortuary and would be visiting the hospital, with Mr O’Dwyer “in the coming weeks”. That visit never occurred.


March 26, 2019 – The four pathologists reply to Mr O’Dwyer stating that, “the inordinate delay in your response does not inspire confidence in the commitment of the SSWHG towards addressing the grave and fundamental issues” outlined in the original letter. They add that the situation has since reached crisis point with bodies being stored on the mortuary floor. They reiterate the urgency of the upgrade to the mortuary. No reply was received to this letter.


April 15 2019 – Having not received a decision from the HSE, The Waterford News & Star contacts the decision maker.


April 16 2019 – The HSE denies the request of the Waterford News & Star for two reasons: 1. Release of the records could contaminate the deliberative process in relation to the upgrade of the Mortuary. 2. Granting of the request would be contrary to the public interest. “The need to preserve confidentiality of deceased persons and their families having regard to the subject matter of the communications.”


April 19, 2019 – The Waterford News & Star receives a copy of the original letter from a HSE source.


April 23, 2019 – A story appears on the front page of the Waterford News & Star about the appalling conditions in the mortuary, with bodies being left on trolleys in corridors. The story receives national attention.


April 26, 2019 – The SSWHG issues a statement to say that a mobile refrigeration unit would be on site and available to use within 1-2 weeks, an extension to the mortuary would be opened in 8-10 weeks and the new mortuary would be built, pending capital approval, within 2 years.


April 29, 20193:30pm Oireachtas members meet UHW hospital management and SSWHG management about the issue.

6:13pm –  The SSWHG issues a statement saying that no complaint has been received from any member of the public, the hospital is not in receipt of any incident report from a staff member and the group and hospital has no evidence that would substantiate the claims outlined by the four pathologists.


April 30, 2019 – On the day that the story appears once again on the front page of the Waterford News & Star, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is in Waterford and says, that there is “no evidence has been brought forward to support the claim that dead bodies were decomposing on corridors”. He describes the story as “strange”.


May 2, 2019 – A serious complaint is received by UHW, which confirms issues raised in the letter of October 2018.


May 4, 2019 – The Taoiseach apologises.


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Contact Journalist: darrens

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