Two members of staff have been suspended and a third has resigned over allegations of impropriety in the purchasing of medical supplies at two hospitals in the Republic of Ireland.
A meeting of the Irish Parliament’s joint committee on health and children last week was told the resignation took place at the Beacon Hospital in Dublin and concerned allegations the employee in question accepted a holiday worth more than €8,000 (£5,600) from a supplier. The two suspensions took place at St Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin.
The meeting was told internal investigations were taking place at both hospitals, while the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation was also conducting an inquiry.
Liam Woods, interim national director of acute hospitals at the Health Service Executive, told the committee a whistleblower had raised concerns in September 2014 about procurement practices at five hospitals in the Irish Republic, not including Beacon Hospital.
“Should these allegations be proved true, those actions are entirely unacceptable,” he said. “Where there is collusion and allegations of collusion we require extra vigilance and we need to learn from such incidents.”
The allegations concerning Beacon Hospital and St Vincent’s were brought to light in a TV news investigation by broadcaster RTÉ.
Robert Troy, Fianna Fáil TD for Longford-Westmeath, said: “Any fair-minded taxpayer has to be sick to their stomach.”
Deputy Séamus Healy, independent TD for South Tipperary, asked: “Is this the tip of the iceberg?”
Michael Cullen, CEO of Beacon Hospital, told the committee the goods involved included surgical instruments and capital equipment. “I can confirm that an employee at the centre of the allegations has since resigned his position,” he said. “I understand a criminal investigation is under way.
“The employee allegedly received a holiday from the supplier. We have no evidence to suggest there are other suppliers involved but we will be having a very detailed look to confirm that.
“Our hospital has strict procurement policies and procedures in place and an alleged breach of these is taken extremely seriously.”
In a letter to the committee St Vincent’s said it could not attend because of its internal investigation but it would do so once this was completed.