In a statement, Richard Boyd Barrett TD has expressed his shock and outrage, after receiving a call this morning from Mental Health Patient advocate and whistleblower, Lousie Baliff, where she informed him that she had been sacked this week by the HSE, in what appears to be a clear act of retaliation against her following her public highlighting of appalling treatment and conditions of mental health patients in St Brendan’s Grangegorman, shortly before Christmas.
Poor conditions and the mistreatment of patients resulting from a Christmas ward closure at St Brendan’s were highlighted by Ms Baliff in early December and received widespread media and news coverage, and were discussed at length in the Dail – prompting promises of action and visits to St Brendan’s by Government representatives.
At the time that Ms Baliff blew the whistle on the impact of a Christmas ward closure on mental health patients in St Brendan’s, politicians on all sides, mental health professionals and commentators all acknowledged the problems highlighted, and the more general need to address major deficiencies and problems in mental health services.
Against this background, Ms Baliff is absolutely appalled that the response of the HSE has been to sack her in what is clearly an act of retaliation for her action in highlighting the conditions of mental health patients.
Ms Baliff has reported to Deputy Boyd Barrett that as soon as she highlighted the issues in St Brendan’s before Christmas she was removed from all wards and not allowed back onto them since. She was told she required further training before she could attend wards – despite the fact that she has an MA qualification in UCD in equality studies, specialising in mental health patient advocacy.
She was initially recruited on a six month contact, but explicitly on the basis of her being employed to go and work in the National Mental Health Forensic Service, in Dundrum. Ms Baliff was therefore absolutely shocked this week to be called to a meeting this week and told that she was being sacked even though her contract had another three months to run, and when it was understood and that the six month contract would be a prelude to further employment in the Central Mental Health Service.
Deputy Boyd Barrett raised the issue at order of business in the Dail this morning in the context of demanding that promised whistle-blower legislation would be urgently brought forward and that the government would take immediate action in relation to the sacking of Ms Baliff.
Deputy Boyd Barrett was extremely disappointed at the non-response and disinterest shown by the Tainiste, Eamon Gilmore, to the news of Ms Baliff’s sacking, particularly given the government’s often stated commitment to encouraging and protecting whistle-blowers.
Deputy Boyd Barrett said:
This an absolutely outrageous and brazen retaliation by the HSE against someone who was doing precisely what she was employed and educated to do – advocate on behalf of vulnerable mental health patients.
Louise Baliff did a huge service to the patients in St Brendan’s, and mental health patients generally, by highlighting their plight and conditions, resulting from a ward closure and cut-backs. It is simply unbelievable that the response of the HSE would be to remove her from hospital wards immediately and then subsequently sack her. It is equally shocking that the government and Tainiste, Eamon Gilmore, should react with such complete indifference to this disgraceful retaliation against a whistle-blower, particularly, when that attempt to punish a whistle-blower is being done by the HSE – government agency.
The government should act immediately to investigate this disgraceful sacking and ensure the re-instatement of Louise Baliff. They must also immediately bring forward whistle-blowers legislation to ensure protection for brave people like Louise who are simply doing their job.”