HEALTH

Mixed reaction to Tipperary hospital's ban on priests getting patients' list for visiting

PATIENTS OR FAMILY MUST REQUEST VISIT

Mixed reaction to Tipperary hospital's ban on priests getting patients' list for visiting

South Tipperary General Hospital

There has been mixed reaction from the public following news that South Tipperary General Hospital and the HSE will no longer provide priests and the clergy with a list of parishioners who are inpatients in the hospital.

The practice of Clonmel priests calling to the hospital daily and receiving a list of inpatients names has ceased following a HSE directive made in compliance with EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Clergy members can still visit patients, on the condition that they have been asked by the family or the patient themselves. 

Independent TD Mattie McGrath said families, in particular those of an older generation, are “angry and saddened” by the implementation of the HSE directive. 

"This is a classic example of the inability of bureaucratic structures to achieve a respectful and common sense balance of rights,” he said.

“Of course privacy needs to be respected, but so does the integrity and selfless commitment of clergy acting in their capacity as chaplains.

“Clergy are de facto members of staff, even if they are not directly employed by the HSE. That needs to be taken into account, especially where decades-long experience and familiarity has been built up.

“A discretionary perspective needs to be applied here as a matter of urgency.”

Many of South Tipp Today's readers took to social media to have their say on the issue. 

Helen O'Clery described the decision as “disgraceful”, adding: “When my parents were at the end of their lives, it was a great comfort to see a priest there."

Teresa Wynne Fahy said the decision is “total rubbish”, while Helena McGee highlighted that she was “so grateful” of a priest’s visits when her baby was in special care. 

Thomas Keane said it’s a “mad move” by the hospital and the HSE.

“I am the kind of person who likes to treat everyone the way I would like to be treated. If a priest or a minister in any of the other churches came into me and sat down to talk, I would have no problem talking back. 

“Maybe I might not talk the way older people would to a priest, but I certainly would talk away in general.”

Majella O’Neill said some patients are “alone and unable” to request a visit from a priest. “It’s very easy to refuse a visit if you want to. 

“However, the system of communication needs to be updated - maybe on admittance to give patients and families the option. 

“Some of the reaction from the public has been quite selfish and doesn’t take into account the many elderly and religious people who don't have anyone to speak for them. 

“They find a priest’s visit very comforting.”

Joanne St John said the decision is “correct” and that patients can arrange a visit if they wish. 

Tracy Rufenia Ahearne said priests should not visit patients unless they have been asked by them or their families. 

“When I was seriously ill in hospital, I refused a priest coming over to bless me and his face just dropped. He looked at me like I had no right to refuse him.”

Nollaig Lonergan said the “church and state need to be separated”, adding: “I remember many years ago being a patient and at that time the rosary was called out over the loudspeaker system. 

“I used get out of bed and stand outside the hospital until it ended. Fine if individuals want to meet their padre, but please don’t inflict visits on the rest of us.”

Tony Chearnley also supported the move. 

“Hopefully the HSE will now ask patients if they want religious details recorded, because for far too long the default setting has been 'catholic' on forms.”

Sinéad Blackmore has no issues with the decision. 

“Anyone who wants a priest can ask for one. If a priest is going around to everyone in the hospital, he will be run off his feet. 

“At least this way they might get to spend more time with those who want to see them.”