A support group for patients allegedly sexually abused by medics, which received pre-election support from both Government parties, has had its funding cut in half and been told not to expect any future state aid.
In a statement confirming the news, Dignity4Patients — which has been contacted by hundreds of former patients of struck-off doctor Michael Shine — said it received the paltry payment after months of battling with the Department of Health.
Despite receiving annual payments of €130,000 in recent years, the group had its funding paused by former health minister Mary Harney last December.
At the time, the now retired politician was refusing to allow a fresh inquiry into the files relating to Michael Shine, a Drogheda-based physician who was struck off during a Medical Council fitness to practise hearing relating to incidents from the 1970s to the 1990s.
"Funding for 2011 was slashed to less than 50%, forcing us to reduce staff..."
Over the subsequent half a year, the group’s founder Bernadette Sullivan held discussions with department officials highlighting how the support offered by the organisation is not provided by any other agency, "including the HSE".
Ms Sullivan also informed officials that the group was in danger of having to close its office without state aid.
As a result of the calls, and pre-election support from Fine Gael Health Minister James Reilly, Dignity4Patients was told it would receive fresh funds.
However, late last week, hours after the group was due to close its headquarters, the department authorised a "once-off" €69,000 annual payment for 2011. This came with a warning that the group, which offers professional counselling and support to more than 300 people nationwide, should not expect any further aid.
Ms Sullivan said the move means alleged victims of sexual abuse are being ignored. "Dignity4Patients are committed to meeting the needs of patient victims.
"However, over the past three years, due to the volume of numbers affected and being the only organisation addressing the sexual abuse of patients in any meaningful way, we have been struggling to cope.
"Funding for 2011 was slashed to less than 50%, forcing us to reduce staff to an impossible level. The impact this will have on those who were benefiting from these services and the vital role that our presence plays in uncovering the abuse of patients in the Irish health system, is very worrying."
(source: Irish Examiner)