AND A DISGRACE.
In October 2006, a patient died needlessly, following a routine operation in Jersey’s General Hospital.
Elizabeth Rourke was a nurse who was widely liked and respected amongst her colleagues.
She lost her life needlessly – and her family have suffered the tragedy of losing her.
I hope readers will join me in hoping that her family find justice, and in expressing our condolences.
Readers in Jersey will be familiar with the fact that a locum Consultant was charged with manslaughter following the death of Elizabeth Rourke.
The acquittal of the locum has been announced this evening.
I am – at last – at liberty to share a little of what I know about this matter.
I was the Minister for Health & Social Services at the time of the tragic incident.
However – unsurprisingly, perhaps – I learnt a great deal more about the matter following my departure from the department.
What I was told by senior management when Minister – was vastly different to that which I later discovered from a number of different sources.
I’m too tired to write a great deal now – but the public interest requires that certain key facts are known.
The acquittal was the correct verdict.
But having said that – there is no question other than that the accidental death of Elizabeth Rourke was a clear case of unlawful killing – a manslaughter.
So why was acquittal the just verdict?
Because the charge of manslaughter was the correct charge – but the locum was the wrong accused.
Elizabeth Rourke died as a result of a corporate manslaughter committed by Jersey Health & Social Services.
I have known this to be the case for over 12 months – and have tried – as the former Minister – to confess to that corporate manslaughter – on no less than five occasions – to different agencies.
None were sufficiently interested.
The defence lawyers.
The police again.
The Bailiff and Attorney General
And then senior staff in the offices of the Bailiff and Attorney General.
Briefly – the facts are these:
The tragic death of the patient was simply the culmination of a cascade of system failures – of gross management errors.
Neither the patient nor the locum should have been placed in the circumstances which surrounded the incident.
Hospital management knew this to be the case at the outset.
Therefore to divert blame from themselves, they set about lining up the locum as their “Plan A” – as the guilty party.
They were also very careful to have a “Plan B” – in the event of acquittal.
That Plan B has been the smearing and vilifying of a senior Jersey consultant.
Now that the locum has been acquitted – we can expect to see all management and establishment effort focused on blaming the Plan B scapegoat.
I could write at length about this dreadful episode – but not tonight.
I will leave you with this thought:
How many complex organisations that experience a serious untoward incident of this nature – such as a hospital – then put in charge of their ‘internal enquiry’ a person who was a key actor in the incident themselves?
And I’m not speaking of the senior consultant who has been vilified – but a different person.
That is what the senior management of Jersey General Hospital did.
No similar organisation the length of the country would have done that.
So far as I can ascertain – it is without precedent in the public health field.
Given the utterly extraordinary nature of the decision to allow a person who was a key figure in the incident itself to lead the ‘internal enquiry’ – we are left with an obvious question?
What possible motivation can have been at work in such an extraordinary management decision?
No doubt, a great deal will be written and said concerning this tragedy.
Now – let our thoughts be with Elizabeth Rourke and her family.