A Waterford hospital is set to feature on tonight's RTE Investigates documentary into the relationship between HSE staff and patient's families.
Your Service Your Say is a bedrock of HSE public policy. It invites, even encourages, those who use any of its many health services to step forward with a comment or complaint when the occasion arises. This means everybody – from hospital patients to their families and friends.
In promoting the Your Service Your Say policy the National Healthcare Charter declares: “Your feedback matters – tell us tell us about your experience so that we can have your concerns addressed.” It promises to “involve you and your family and carers in decision-making about your healthcare.”
This is not the experience of the five people who feature in the 'RTÉ Investigates - Troublemakers' report tonight on RTÉ Prime Time. The investigation features St Patrick’s Hospital in Waterford as well as Cherry Orchard Hospital in Dublin and Cappahard Lodge Nursing Home in Ennis, Co. Clare with the five case studies having much in common.
One such story centres arounf retired Dubliner, Patrick Fitzgerald, a former trade union negotiator, who currently finds himself locked out of Cherry Orchard where his beloved wife Anne is a long-term resident in the Sycamore Unit.
Anne sustained a life-changing brain injury after slipping on ice nine years ago when putting out a wheelie bin. A random, catastrophic tragedy of such mundane origins, yet it has changed life irrevocably for the Fitzgerald family. Patrick was pleased to find her a residence in the Sycamore Unit but when he began to notice what he felt were lapses in quality of service he felt he should make his observations known to senior staff. And when Anne was left waiting for a scheduled physiotherapy session that did not take place Patrick wanted to know why.
Instead of having his “concerns addressed” he found little encouragement to him reporting the matter. And when he followed up with other complaints he felt his everyday relations deteriorate with some staff at the Sycamore Unit. In return, staff complaints were made against Patrick for aggressive and abusive behaviour – allegations he rejects completely.
On the back of staff complaints, the HSE-run Cherry Orchard Hospital carried out a risk assessment of Patrick Fitzgerald. It concluded that Patrick’s visiting hours be cut to three hours a day and a security guard posted to the Sycamore Unit during this period. With growing frustration over what he saw as fruitless meetings with HSE management Patrick staged a protest against the restrictions by picketing the entrance to the hospital.
Patrick’s visiting hours were further cut to an hour a day, Monday to Thursday from 2-3pm. Which is where he finds himself at present, allowed to visit for just four hours a week in total.
His daughter Frances has tried to fill the void by making daily visits to her stricken mother. RTÉ Investigates has seen internal correspondence at Cherry Orchard refer to Frances exhibiting “similar risk behaviour” as her father. No evidence has been produced to back up this claim and it’s an allegation that incenses the Fitzgerald family.
In a statement to RTÉ, the HSE said: “Management of complaints and compliments for the services provided in Cherry Orchard hospital is on-going. Every effort is made to ensure that learning from the complaints and compliments is acted upon to benefit the experience of all the clients in the unit.”
The documentary will show another four case studies, including one in Waterford and another in Clare, featured in the video preview at the head of this article.
RTÉ Investigates - Troublemakers, tonight on Prime Time, 9.35pm, RTÉ One and RTÉ News Now.