The Government’s recent decision to hold an Inquiry into the State’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic is to be welcomed. However, the Terms of Reference need to be fit for purpose and any recommendations made by such an Inquiry should be implemented in a timely manner.
Posted in [Blog] on Thursday, March 24th, 2022
Recent media reports indicate our Government will hold an Inquiry into the State’s handling of the COVID-19 Pandemic. However, some media reports suggest that it might have already been decided that key decision makers including the CMO and the CEO of the HSE may not be required to take part in such an Inquiry. In those circumstances, one would have to question the objective of such an Inquiry and whether any such objective could be met if the recent media reports are correct on that aspect of matters.
There already have been reports published into the State’s handling of aspects of the Pandemic. Perhaps one of the most alarming facts to come out of the Pandemic was the extent of deaths from COVID-19 among nursing home residents. The Nursing Home Expert Panel Report was published in August 2020. It confirmed there were 971 deaths related to COVID-19 in nursing homes during the first wave of the Pandemic which represented 56% of all COVID-19 related deaths as of June 2020. The Report made 80 recommendations for the nursing home sector to implement including more annual HIQA inspections together with recommending a closer relationship between HIQA, the HSE and nursing homes. Regrettably, the Report did not address who was accountable for the 971 COVID-19 related deaths (as of June 2020) in nursing homes.
Another report – the Final Report of the Special Committee on COVID-19 Response – was published in October 2020. That Committee was established to consider and take evidence on the State’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Report looked at the wider impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on society and made a series of recommendations. In terms of what occurred in nursing homes, it recommended that a Public Inquiry be established to investigate and report on all circumstances relating to each individual death from COVID-19 in nursing homes. It also recommended that an implementation plan be drawn up for the recommendations contained in the Report of the COVID-19 Nursing Home Expert Panel.
It is unclear what has happened since then in terms of implementing the recommendations in these reports. It appears an ‘Oversight Team’ has been set up to implement the recommendations in the Nursing Home Expert Panel Report. According to the website www.gov.ie, it has published 3 ‘progress reports’ to date and the last ‘progress report’ dated September 2021 is now 6 months old. How many more progress reports will there be before these recommendations are satisfactorily implemented?
In the UK, their government has published draft terms of reference for their Public Inquiry into the COVID-19 Pandemic which is to be followed by a period of public engagement and consultation on the terms of reference. A similar approach should be taken here to ensure those most adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic including bereaved families have input into the Terms of Reference of any Inquiry. It is important that the Terms of Reference stipulate that any recommendations made by the Inquiry are implemented within a reasonable time period to ensure the State is ready and able to act proactively when these kinds of events occur again. Otherwise, the State risks the same failures and mistakes that this pandemic has brought to light happening once more.
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Marian practises in clinical negligence cases with a particular focus on delayed diagnosis of cancer claims, fatal injury, plastic surgery, general surgery, obstetric injury, catastrophic injury and ENT claims, to name a few. Her experience in these areas of law ranges from mid value cases to complex and high value claims. She provides advice to clients in relation to issues arising under the Data Protection Acts/GDPR, limitation issues and has experience of litigating before the High Court, Court of Civil Appeal and Supreme Court. She is a CEDR accredited mediator and represents clients in the mediation of clinical negligence claims.
- Bachelor of Business Studies and French, University of Limerick
- Admitted to the Roll of Solicitors (2009)
- Advocacy and Employment Law Skills Certificate, Law Society of Ireland
- CEDR Certificate in Advanced Negotiation Skills
- CEDR Accredited Mediator
- Diploma in Professional Regulation, NUI
- Certificate in Data Protection Practice, Law Society of Ireland
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