Radio: Lame-duck response to Leas Cross

  • 15 November 2006
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'Could the suffering and the deaths [in Leas Cross nursing home] have been avoided if the health board had acted on earlier complaints?"

"Yes, the suffering the people witnessed on the Prime Time programme could have been avoided if action was taken on the information that was then known by the Northern Area Health Board."

"Aidan Browne said 'systems failure' allowed Leas Cross to happen and no individual or group of individuals could be held to account."

"I don't believe in systems failure. There wasn't a system failure... People knew about it [the abuse taking place in Leas Cross]. People put the systems in place.

"In a word, could people be held to account [for the abuse and deaths at Leas Cross]?"


So went the dialogue between Martin Hynes and presenter Paul Maguire on This Week (RTÉ Radio 1, Sunday, 1pm). Martin Hynes carried out a review of inspections of Leas Cross in 2004 and was one of the few people, along with the consultant psycho-geriatricians in St Ita's, to come out of Des O'Neill's report into the nursing home in good light. They consistently brought the terrible conditions, low levels of nursing and medical staffing, and a myriad other concerns, to the attention of health-service management between October 2003 and June 2005.

At least someone was moving the story on. Someone who worked for the health services was saying, 'Let's hold someone to account' – not whitewashing the abuse that took place in Leas Cross or explaining away the absolute failure of health-services management to respond.

Despite 36 hours of blanket Leas Cross coverage, The Sunday Show moved the story along.

Just like the previous day when Saturday View (RTÉ Radio 1, Saturday, 1pm) allowed some difficult questions to be aired despite Fianna Fáil TD Peter Power's best efforts to whitewash. It says a lot that Peter Power, an unheard of backbench TD from Limerick East, was the only person the government was prepared to roll out in the days following the publication of the Leas Cross review.

Luckily, Saturday View also had Prime Time reporter Katie Hannon, who spoke about a more recent case of negligence in a nursing home in Rathfarnham. Hannon questioned how seriously this issue was being taken, with the HSE now admitting there are still homes out there to which they have stopped any further admissions because they are so concerned about them.

And, happily, Liam Twomey, Fine Gael's health spokesperson, was also on air asking the hard questions. "Why weren't there any senior ministers or the CEO of health services at the press briefing?"

"Why are the ministers and HSE behaving like it's not their responsibility?"

"Why has the necessary legislation [to set up independent inspectorate with real powers] not moved an iota?"

And the lame-duck backbencher, from this lame-duck government, failed to come up with any reasonable or coherent answers. And Rodney Rice didn't help him. Nor should he have.