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Sexual abuse of patients ‘going unchecked’ in health service

The founder of support group Dignity 4 Patients raised her ‘grave concern’ that some medics who allegedly abused patients remained in hospitals.

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(Peter Byrne/PA)

(Peter Byrne/PA)

(Peter Byrne/PA)

Alleged perpetrators of sexual abuse against patients are going “unchecked” in the health service, it has been claimed.

The founder of support group Dignity 4 Patients raised her “grave concern” that some medics who allegedly abused patients remained in hospitals and other medical settings.

Bernadette Sullivan reiterated the organisation’s call for an inquiry into sexual abuse of patients at the hands of medics.

The group, which supports more than 300 alleged victims, launched its 2019 annual report on Monday.

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Bernadette Sullivan (Niall Carson/PA)

Bernadette Sullivan (Niall Carson/PA)

PA

Bernadette Sullivan (Niall Carson/PA)

“We have a concern that some of the alleged perpetrators, in the cases where the incidences have just happened, that they are going unchecked in the health service,” Ms Sullivan said.

“That is why we want to raise awareness today, we want to raise awareness and at the same time seek further engagement with the authorities that have the power to improve conditions, improve prevention, improve care of the victims, particularly in the acute aftermath if something happens to them.”

She added that it was important that ongoing care was provided as some victims needed care “on and off for the rest of their lives”.

In 2019 Dignity 4 Patients helped 217 of its 323 active clients and their families through support, advocacy and information services. Court accompaniment services were provided to 57 people.

Ms Sullivan, who is also executive director of Dignity 4 Patients, said 2019 had reinforced the group’s concerns about the risk of sexual abuse of patients.

“We have ongoing, grave concerns for patient safety,” she said.

There has to be an examination of how the system has failedBernadette Sullivan

“There is a worry that risks to patients may increase due to the pressures on the health services in this pandemic and Covid-19 patient management requirements.

“The geographical spread of complainants shows that sexual abuse of patients is a national issue.

“We need an examination of all cases reported to the HSE and Dignity 4 Patients in order to establish the scale and to identify areas and situations where patients are vulnerable so that effective prevention measures can be put in place.

“There has to be an examination of how the system has failed.”

The organisation also called for the Health Minister and Justice Minister to send out a “clear message” of “zero tolerance” of sexual abuse of patients.

“This should be followed by the implementation of effective prevention measures together with an education and awareness campaign for healthcare staff and the general public,” she said.

Ms Sullivan also said health authorities and the Justice Department needed to ensure preventative measures were put in place.

“If someone is making a complaint the trauma has already happened for that person,” she said.

“We want to stop that. We want to prevent that trauma in the health service… we want to end the trauma of sexual abuse of patients.”

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