Questions to answer?

The Irish Times reported today that the country’s Minister for Health James Reilly has again been taken to task by the Ceann Comhairle (Speaker in the Irish parliament) for failing to answer a Dáil question about primary care centres.

But in the light of the revelations in one of the country’s newspapers last week perhaps he has even more serious questions to answer – like the question of the position of the new CEO, Dr. Tony O’Brien, whom he has appointed to the Health Service Executive?

Sam Coulter Smith, clinical professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the Royal College of Surgeons, was quoted las Saturday as saying that he was “shocked and very disappointed” to learn that Irish women who travel to Britain for abortions are being told they should hide this from their doctors. This advice was given to them by agents of the Irish Family Planning Association

Dr. O’Brien, the new HSE chief, was  Chief Executive of the Irish Family Planning Association from December 1991 to August 2002. He was also Chief Executive of the UK Family Planning Association from May 1995 to April 1996, an organisation which is even more suspect that its Irish equivalent, when it comes to cavalier approaches to women’s and children’s health.

Was advice like this being given to women under Dr. O’Brien’s watch at the IFPA?

In the light of last week’s revelations there has now been a call by members of the Oireachtas (parliamentary) Committee on Health and Children for an independent review of counselling practices at IFPA and HSE crisis pregnancy counselling clinics. The Irish Pro Life Campaign has welcomed the call.

Perhaps the country’s “paper of record”, the Irish Times, will now no longer be able to ignore this 5-day-old story if it is forced on to the records of the Oireachtas.

Reported in today’s Irish Independent, Fine Gael TD Jerry Buttimer, Chairman of the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children, said he would be contacting the HSE as a matter of urgency to “seek clarification on the nature, independence and partiality of their inquiry”.

His concerns were echoed by other members of the Committee including TDs Regina Doherty, Denis Naughton, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, Robert Troy, Mattie McGrath and Senator John Crown.

Dr Ruth Cullen of the Pro Life Campaign said: “We welcome the fact that the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children are treating the findings of the undercover investigation with the seriousness they deserve.  It is vital that an independent review takes place without delay. These findings transcend the abortion debate.  The type of counselling shown by the undercover investigation to take place at IFPA and HSE pregnancy counselling clinics quite literally puts women’s lives at risk.

She continued “We are calling for an independent public inquiry into how such professional malpractice has been allowed to go unnoticed and uncorrected by the body legally tasked with monitoring them. Since the Health Service Executive (HSE) are themselves implicated in the failure of proper governance of the crisis pregnancy agencies, they are part of the problem and cannot be allowed to supervise the investigation.”

“The reality is that the Irish taxpayer is subsidising counsellors to give unsafe information to women.   This must be investigated promptly and thoroughly” Dr. Cullen concluded.

See link to today’s Irish Independent report  – HSE chiefs face grilling over illegal advice on abortion. See link to reports from last Saturday’s Irish Independent Shocking breach of good medical practice says Rotunda Chief and Revealed – The Abortion advice that could put lives at risk

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