• Sat. Oct 29th, 2022

Children’s Ombudsman Niall Muldoon has said revelations that the Department of Health has been secretly using information from private doctor consultations to build dossiers on children with autism who were involved in legal action against the State made him …

Mar 26, 2021

Children’s Ombudsman Niall Muldoon has said revelations by RTÉ Investigates that the Department of Health has been secretly using information from private doctor consultations to build and maintain dossiers on children with autism who were involved in legal action against the State made him “very angry”.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, he described those involved as the “most vulnerable children in Ireland” and said their families are doing their best to get those children the rights they are entitled to.
They sued the Government for that reason, he said, because the Government had not provided those rights in the first place.
“We need to ask the Government and the Taoiseach ‘who leads the Government?'”, Mr Muldoon said.
“What kind of State are we trying to create here? We’re trying to provide a State in which children’s rights are protected and promoted at all times … as recently as yesterday there were statements coming out saying its normal practice.
“It’s lawful, maybe, but is it proper and appropriate? Absolutely not.”
Mr Muldoon said it is not a fair playing field, and members of the families taking lawsuits cannot knock on the door of a minister or secretary general’s GP and request to see their medical records.
It is an “abuse of power” in relation to families and children who are “extremely vulnerable” he said.
“We also have to ask the question: Has this happened with other children where families have sued in relation to assessment of needs perhaps, or school places or maternity issues? Is this a common practice?”
Mr Muldoon said he “absolutely” wants this practice stopped.
He questioned if the Department of Health has made “immediate contact” with the families involved, because hundreds will be worried that they are caught up in this.
Mr Muldoon said we also need to take a look and see if this has been happening in other lawsuits in which children are involved.
He said we have to ask who asked for the information and who gave the information, and “those answers are crucial”.
Children’s Ombudsman Niall Muldoon says he “absolutely” wants the practice of the Government building secret dossiers on children with autism stopped pic.twitter.com/exq2oaEQTF
— RTÉ News (@rtenews) March 26, 2021
CEO of the Health Service Executive Paul Reid said everyone must always be able to trust the health system.
Also speaking on Morning Ireland, he said confidentiality is the cornerstone of any health delivery and the HSE has sought further information about the issues highlighted by RTÉ Investigates and it will be followed through on.
“From our perspective nothing can be right about sharing information inappropriately,” Mr Reid said.
He said the HSE would not be sharing any information inappropriately and from their understanding anything that was shared was on a legal basis and was not breaking patient confidentiality.
The whistleblower exposing the Department of Health’s secret dossiersDepartment of Health built secret dossiers on children with autismWhy Dept of Health secret dossiers are breach of trust for parents
This is just yet another breach of trust that families in our community have experienced.
Deputy CEO of autism awareness charity AsIAm Fiona Ferris said there are many concerns raised from last night’s report by RTÉ’s Investigates.
Speaking on the same programme, she said there is a “lot of upset and confusion from families in our community”.
Ms Ferris thinks the revelations will raise concerns for these families who are now questioning the trust and relationship they may have with those who have been positioned to support them.
She said: “How was this allowed to happen, will the families be informed of how their data has been used? And the biggest concern we have is the perpetuation of this attitude and the culture towards those with disabilities in Ireland.
“This is just yet another breach of trust that families in our community have experienced.”
She said questions need to be asked externally and internally now as to how these processes were allowed to take place.
While she welcomes the legal review, Ms Ferris stated there needs to be a review of the culture and of the ethics of this also.
Sinn Féin’s health spokesperson David Cullinane accused the Department of Health of a “monumental breach of trust” following the revelations.
Speaking on Morning Ireland, Mr Cullinane said the findings of the investigation are “truly shocking” and disturbing and that these issues need to be properly investigated.
“There needs to be a full and proper investigation,” he said.
Mr Cullinane said instead of assisting families, the department was “snooping” on these children and it raises legal, moral and ethical issues.
“Whatever about the legal issues and if there were breaches it was unethical and completely wrong and to have very sensitive information and the child’s psychiatric information,” he said.
He said Sinn Féin has already called for a investigation and it also wants the Acting Secretary General of the Department of Health Robert Watt to appear before the Oireachtas Health Committee.
“It is appropriate to hear from the Department and for Oireachtas members to ask questions the families will have.”
He said he does not “buy the justification” from the Department of Health.
“We want to know what happened, is this practice still ongoing, is this information still being compiled, why was this done?”