Troubling Suspension of Cork Psychiatric Nurse

[speaking in the Seanad during Order of Business]

I ask the Leader for clarification from the Minister for Health on the circumstances of a somewhat troubling event that occurred in Cork in the South Lee mental health services over the past several weeks. One of the nursing staff is also a member of the Psychiatric Nurses’ Association, Mr. Des McSweeney, and was part of an expert committee planning future services in the unit that was to be redeveloped.

….. A member of staff, who was also a member of an expert committee which was planning services for the hospital, disagreed with some of the proposed developments. He gave a public interview about them and suddenly found himself suspended. I believe he has now been reinstated, but it is very troubling to me that the HSE elected that this gentleman be suspended from his duties pending an investigation. I believe the decision was taken by the HSE and not at local level.

I personally believe that people who work in the health services should have an absolute right to involve the public in debate about critical issues of policy. An assumption is sometimes made by officials who run the health service that they are the only non-self-interested party in the entire portfolio of people who have opinions and power in the development of the health service. I believe this is very sinister. At the time of the Harney consulting contracts – I am sorry, am I allowed to say “Harney”? At the time of the Harney consulting contracts ten years ago, I voiced grave concerns about the possibility of a gagging clause in the consultants’ contract. More recently, we successfully prevented any gagging clause from being inserted into the new GP contract. I would be very troubled indeed if our nursing colleagues were being silenced or gagged, especially when they have representative positions.

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