Failings in HSE Audiology Services in the West of Ireland. When will we learn?
I read with dismay reports of the 49 children who were failed by substandard audiology services in the Sligo and Roscommon area. This is yet another example of the HSE failing its patients.
We already know that we have a health service with a number of inadequacies, including:
- A&E Departments with thousands of people waiting on trolleys.
- Obstetric failings as evidenced by the report into maternity services at Portlaoise hospital.
- Mental health services with unacceptable delays, in particular, for young people.
- Lengthy queues for outpatient appointments especially ophthalmology.
- More recently we have learned that we have a cervical cancer screening process which failed to detect pre-cancerous cells in ladies who took the proactive step of looking after their health and presented for screening, yet were given false results. Worse still when the error came to light they were not informed.
- Furthermore, my colleagues and I at Cantillons act for a large number of people who have been left down by the HSE. We have seen negligent care given to patients across the entire range of services from orthopaedic failings, to cardiology to radiology errors to birth injuries. We have also seen risk management reviews which failed victims and we have seen blatant wrongdoing covered up and denied.
The list of HSE failings goes on. Now sadly, we can add to that list an audiology service which has seriously failed the children of the West of Ireland over at least a 10 year period.
So many questions spring to mind. These are the same questions that arise every time another failing in the system is uncovered. The answers are never clear.
- How did we let this happen?
- Why was it not detected sooner?
- Who was auditing and reviewing the service over those 10 years of substandard care?
- Once the investigation commenced why did the report take so long to be completed and released?
- Why were the people affected not informed immediately?
- Why did it take so long for an apology to be given?
- Are we doing everything possible to assist the people affected and the children who will suffer lifelong adverse effects due to these failings?
- Why are the HSE filing full defences to these cases?
- What will be learned from the review?
- What will change?
We know of these 49 children and their families, but the worry is that there are many more potentially affected. It appears that the HSE have reviewed cases for this Audiologist for a period of six years only and in certain areas only. The HSE should review all cases that the Audiologist was involved in over the entire period he was employed. Calls have also been made for the HSE to broaden the regions covered by their inquiry. This is obvious. The HSE know of an individual audiologist who had serious failings in the service provided to children. The HSE know that this individual worked in other areas of Ireland, they know where he worked and they can determine the children who received those services. The HSE therefore have a duty of care to these children and perhaps adults to broaden their inquiry now (if they have not already done so).
In the short-term, we need to help the children and their families affected. We also need to ensure that all children who came under this audiologist’s care are reviewed immediately and receive appropriate treatment if necessary.
In the long-term, we must learn from this. Failings can and do occur in any service. The HSE must monitor, review and audit all services against International best practice, implement any recommendation identified and continue the continuous cycle of re-auditing at regular intervals.
Moreover the HSE and medical professionals must tell people on a timely basis when a failing has occurred. Minister for Health, Simon Harris has said that it is right and proper that the health service apologises when errors are found and take swift action to support those impacted. Hopefully the 49 children and their families are all receiving those individual apologies today along with all supports they require. Hopefully the next time we learn of a failing in our health system that those apologies and the appropriate supports will already have been given.
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