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The Government is surprised at the statement issued by GBC last night - 371/2021

May 14, 2021

GBC requested access to the CCU wards in January at a time that the COVID-19 infection was at its peak, the CCU was at full capacity and the number of COVID positive patients in St Bernard’s Hospital was at an all time high. As such, during this period, the GHA was in Black and Red alert status.

GBC’s request was put to the GHA’s senior management team, on various occasions, and at that time it was the strong feeling of the GHA clinicians, including senior management that it was not appropriate for there to be any filming undertaken inside the hospital. The view and the request by the clinicians, whose primary priority at that time was to save lives, not to film was respected by the Minister for Health.

Because, however, it was felt important that some footage was made available to the public broadcaster, footage inside the CCU was taken by members of staff from the CCU with the use of a bodycam specifically to provide the footage to GBC. So whereas Mr Scott did not himself personally enter the CCU ward to film it, the footage was taken by a member of staff and provided to GBC for their use so that the images could be shown. GBC predominately used this footage for a Viewpoint programme that was aired in February alongside an interview with Dr Hamish Thomson. Dr Thomson explained to Mr Scott at that time his reasons for not agreeing to GBC entering the CCU to film so GBC are fully aware of the reason. At the end of that Viewpoint programme, Mr Scott thanked the GHA for the footage it had provided and at that point made a statement that GBC has not been allowed inside the CCU and the reason why, so this was all ventilated at that time.

A private company has taken footage of the CCU at the request of the Senior Clinical Management Team so that it is keep as a matter of record and for use in the Inquiry. That footage has not been used, and has not been put in the public domain. The private company involved volunteered its services and did not charge for them.

When GBC has requested interviews during the period of time that the Hospital has been in Black and Red alert status, they have always been accommodated on the 7th floor of St Bernard’s Hospital which is a non-clinical area and they have used various spaces in this area, including the general boardroom, the office of the Medical Director and the Office of the Minister for Health, all of which are on this non-clinical floor.

Mr Scott has not requested access to St Bernard’s Hospital wards since the 9th March 2021, had he done so, access would have been arranged as he was specifically informed on more than one occasion, that his request to film inside the wards would be accommodated as soon as the hospital management advised that it was safe to do so, the request has simply not been made.

Other members of GBC who have requested access since the GHA has deescalated from Red alert status have been been given access, as they always have been. Indeed over the last few weeks GBC have requested access to St Bernard’s Hospital to film staff and clinical areas for the purposes of ‘Our Bubble’ programme and all access requested has been given, as it always has been.

It is regrettable that the matter has been politicised and has been blown out of all proportion to make it seem like something it was not. It seems that people have forgotten what a difficult time it was for those discharging their duties in the hospital. At a time when the priority for doctors was to save lives of those affected by COVID-19 in CCU and who objected to GBC being there because they put their patients first, such wishes of those in the front line was respected. This was never a question of a political decision to control the media.

A statement provided by Dr Hamish Thompson, in his capacity as the Deputy Medical Director and Clinical Director of the CCU and a member of the GHA COVID Gold command structure follows:

“During the peak of the last wave of the COVID pandemic I was made aware in my capacity as Clinical Director of Intensive care and, at that point, acting Deputy Medical Director and a member of the Gold Command, that GBC had requested access to the Intensive care and COVID ward. I was asked whether this should be approved. This was a complicated question and one that required a lot of thought at the time. We needed to balance the need of the population to understand what was occurring in the hospital with the obvious need to limit the disruption to the highly pressured running of the ICU. Another vital consideration was the confidentiality and dignity of our patients, many of whom were fighting for their lives and some of whom would tragically lose that battle. In the context of our small and tightly knit community this was something we knew would be difficult to safe guard. Added into this was an understanding of pain being experienced and the massive personal sacrifice being made by families unable to be with their loved ones in the hospital. As such it was decided clinically to decline the request but to find solutions that would allow some images to be available to the media (body cam footage) while exploring ways of having a more complete record available for the GHA’s own debrief and for posterity”.