Renewed Irish water fluoridation review call

THERE were renewed calls last night for a review of Ireland’s mandatory fluoridation of Irish water.

This followed a study found weight gain and depression caused by an under-active thyroid is linked to high levels of fluoride in water.

Scientists say water fluoridation above a certain level is linked to 30 percent higher than expected rates of hypothyroidism in England. Worryingly, the fluoride levels of concern are considerably LESS than the maximum levels of fluoride the HSE puts into our water supply here.

imgresLast night Fianna Fail Cork County councillor Christopher O’Sullivan said: ‘I wouldn’t be in a position to debate the pros and cons of the science behind fluoridation. But this study reiterates the need for a wider debate and a review of this country’s mandatory fluoridation of water supplies.’

He was behind a motion passed last March in which Cork County Council became the first council to call on the government to stop putting fluoride into water supplies. The call was followed by similar ones from councils in Kerry, Dublin, Cavan and Wexford.

He added: ‘I only put forward the motion on an issue of freedom of choice. Fluoride hasn’t been removed from our supply in Cork despite the successful vote, which has cross-party support.

‘There is enough evidence to create doubt about the use of it in our country’s water supply. I would hope this study encourages the government to review the issue. There needs to be an independent study into its use, especially as the last big one was back in 2000.’

Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral found in water and certain foods including tea and fish. Its main benefit is in helping reduce the risk of tooth decay. As a result the mineral is added to many brands of toothpaste, and in some areas, to the water supply.

But researchers at the University of Kent have warned the mineral may be responsible for triggering underactive thyroids. Also known as hypothyroidism, the condition prevents the thyroid – a gland in the neck – producing vital hormones.

That in turn, promotes weight gain, causes depression and tiredness in sufferers. The authors, led by Professor Stephen Peckham, conclude: ‘Consideration needs to be given to reducing fluoride exposure.’ The scientists examined 2012 levels of fluoride in drinking water supply.

Professor Stephen Peckham
Professor Stephen Peckham

They looked at these fluoride levels in conjunction with the national prevalence of underactive thyroid. The researchers also carried out a secondary analysis, comparing two built-up areas. The West Midlands, which is supplied with fluoridated drinking water, was pitched against Greater Manchester, which isn’t.

Where fluoride levels were above 0.7mg per litre – which is 0.1mg less than the maximum limit put into Irish water – they found higher than expected rates of hypothyroidism than in areas with levels below this dilution. High rates of hypothyroidism were at least 30 per cent more likely in GP practices located in areas with fluoride levels in excess of 0.3mg per litre, which is .3mg less than the bottom limit put into Irish water supplies.

Fluoridation of drinking water supplies, which has been going on since 1964, is governed by Fluoridation of Water Supplies Regulations 2007. The Health Service Executive has responsibility for fluoridation policy and for coordinating all matters relating to the implementation of the fluoridation of water supplies in Ireland.

The Regulations require the amount of fluoride which may be added to public water supplies shall be such that the water, after the addition of the fluoride, shall contain not more than 0.8 milligrams of fluoride per litre (mg/l) of water, and not less than 0.6 milligrams of fluoride per litre (mg/l) of water.

search

A spokesperson for Irish Water said last night: ‘Irish Water act as agents of HSE in fluoridating water supplies in succession to the local authorities who were agents of the Department of Health/HSE since 1964 following the introduction of fluoridation in Ireland by way of the Health (Fluoridation of Water Supplies) Act 1960.

‘Irish Water complies with the above Regulations in fluoridating water supplies.’

A Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘Water fluoridation is the adjustment of the natural concentration of fluoride in drinking water to the optimal recommended level for the prevention of dental decay.

‘Fluoride strengthens the teeth, strong teeth result in fewer fillings, fewer extractions and fewer visits to the dentist. In Ireland, the Forum on Fluoridation reviewed fluoridation policy in 2000 and concluded the fluoridation of public piped water supplies should continue as a public health measure.

‘The Department of Health keeps the policy of water fluoridation under constant review.

‘As part of this ongoing work, a review of evidence on the impact of water fluoridation at its current level on the health of the population has been conducted by the Health Research Board on behalf of the Department. This is currently being finalised.’

HSE should stop ‘spin’ and prove services ‘safe’

Roisin and Mark Molloy, parents of baby boy who died in Portlaoise Hospital
Roisin and Mark Molloy on the Prime Time programme last year.

THE MOTHER of a baby who died in Portlaoise Hospital yesterday demanded the HSE prove their maternity services are safe.

Roisin Molloy’s call came after the HSE’s Dr Alan Finan re-assured people about the safety of maternity services in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda.

Dr Alan Finan was responding to a HSE report which found 13 ‘significant incidents’ of a breech birth being diagnosed there over a two year period.

The Clinical Director of Women and Children Services in the North East’s had told Newstalk’s Breakfast programme: ‘I believe services in Drogheda are certainly on a par with the major centres around the country.

‘It has transformed itself and it currently runs a very open and honest service.

‘It is at the forefront of maternity care nationally.

‘And I have no hesitation in re-assuring the public who use maternity services in Drogheda that it is an excellent service.’

The Midlands Regional Hospital, Portlaoise as featured in RTE.com Prime Time investigation
Portlaoise Hospital

But, speaking on the station’s lunchtime news programme later, Mrs Molloy said HSE ‘spin’ on the issue of safety was not acceptable anymore.

And she said that unless the HSE can prove the safety of its maternity services, she was unable to take HSE assurances about safety seriously.

She also claimed that parents affected by maternity services-related incidents are being kept in the dark by the HSE.

And she urged all mothers and fathers using maternity services to have the confidence to demand answers to anything they were unsure about.

Mrs Molloy’s baby son Mark died 22 minutes after being born on January 24, 2012 after a delayed emergency Caesarean section.

The failure by staff to act promptly when a foetal heart monitor showed he was in distress at the Midlands Regional Hospital. Portlaoise, also contributed to his death.

Mark Molloy junior shortly after his birth at Portlaoise Hospital
Baby Mark Molloy Jr shortly after his birth.

Mrs Molloy and husband – also called Mark – sued the HSE in relation to his death.

The case of the couple, from Co Offaly, featured in the RTÉ’s Investigations Unit’s programme ‘Fatal Failures’ a year later. (It can be watched here)

Mrs Molloy, who had initially been told by hospital staff son Mark had been stillborn, said: ‘The issue of whether maternity services are safe in Ireland is of question because we don’t have research to say that it is

‘Up until Mark’s death and Savita Halappanavar’s death, we would say that maternity services in Ireland had really gone under the radar.

‘There was numerous deaths in our hospitals right across Ireland, babies deaths that could have been prevented, mothers’ deaths that could have been prevented.

‘It’s no longer good enough for the HSE coming out with the spin that Irish maternity services are safe.

‘We need to see why they are safe.

‘We need to see why these incidents keep happening again and again and again.

‘So, unless the HSE are going to give us real reasons as to why we can believe that the HSE are safe, I wouldn’t believe it, I don’t believe it now.’

Screenshot from RTE.com Prime Time programme of Roisin Molloy with baby Mark shortly after his death at Portlaoise Hospital
Roisin Molloy with baby Mark

On the issue of HSE audits into services, Mrs Molloy – who, the High Court found in 2014, had not received a full and frank account of what caused her son’s death, said: ‘In the number of baby deaths in Portlaoise Hospital, there had been no audit done on the reading of a CTG trace reading ever, in Portlaoise Hospital despite the fact that that was a common denominator in all our babies deaths.

‘I would ask, how many other audits are done around the country in terms of misdiagnose, breached deliveries

‘Is that something they are doing in other hospitals or is this a new thing, that it’s something they have to look at.

‘I think they need to be asked the question, if they are basing their standards on rates in other hospitals, they need to show us their research – not to show that it has been done.

Screen grab of two of Roisin and Mark Molloy's four sons. as featured on RTE.com Prime Time programme.
Two of Roisin and Mark Molloy’s four sons.

‘You have to ask, why does it take so many incidents to happen for them to say, OK, we are going to make improvements.’

And Mrs Molloy – who is campaigning for more openness and transparency in the reporting of medical errors – warned: ‘Each mother and father going in to have a baby in hospital need to ask the most basic questions.

‘And if they are not happy with something, they need to have the confidence to say they are not happy.

‘We have fantastic staff (in the maternity services), and then we have staff that aren’t so fantastic.

She said she is dealing with a number of families affected by maternity service-related incidents.

Of these, she said: ‘The common thing among the families is that they have been excluded from any investigation process, have never been told what happened.

‘It’s like the doors are shut on you.

‘And when you ask a question, you are not given answers.

‘There is no open disclosure, there is no one telling you exactly what happened.

‘You are the one who has to make the effort.

‘The HSE are telling families their baby shouldn’t have died but they are leaving it at that.

‘There is no follow-up care at all.

‘People are just being left devastated on top of the loss of their babies or injury to their babies or injury to themselves with no support.’

Picture of Portlaoise Hospital.
Portlaoise Hospital.

And she added: ‘I can find very little evidence that there is anybody listening or that there is evidence that there is change.

‘I think the evidence of change is in terms of the public’s perception of maternity services.’

A transcript of Mrs Molloy’s interview was emailed to the HSE yesterday evening but a spokesperson was unavailable.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘We would not normally comment on individual cases.

‘However, this is clearly a matter for the HSE.’

Have you been affected by issues raised in the article above and would like attention drawn to them? Email randomirish @ icloud.com

1500 ‘denied’ treatment at Mater – claim

AS MANY as 1,500 patients have either been denied treatment or had appointments to see consultants postponed at The Mater in an attempt to slash waiting list figures and meet James Reilly’s rigid targets.

Patients – some of whom have been waiting more than a year – have been told they are no longer either eligible for treatment at the Mater because they live in the wrong ‘catchment area’ .

They now face going to the bottom of waiting lists at other hospitals, even though some have conditions as serious as skin cancer, or waiting even longer for care at the Mater – despite consultants having already decided they should be seen at certain dates.

The decision to reject would-be patients from the Dublin hospital or postpone care for others was taken by admin staff.

Astonishingly, the medical consultants were not involved.

The surgeons, who learned of the changes only last week, lay much of the blame on the Health Minister’s waiting list hit squad, the Special Delivery Unit – and on the decision to fine hospitals €25,000 per patient per month if they do not meet waiting list targets.

Dr Helen O’Neill, the GP who brought the scandal to light, said last night: ‘I am very angry that my patients – many of whom have been waiting for more than a year – now have to join the end of a waiting list somewhere else.

‘This is outrageous, as is the fact that the letters cancelling their treatment came from a manager, not a doctor.

‘How dare they do this. How dare they.’

The Mater last night admitted people had been removed from the list but insisted: ‘No patients have been adversely affected.’

However, Dr O’Neill, who exposed the practice in a letter to the Irish Times last Tuesday, said last night: ‘They say that no patient will be affected, but patients have already been affected.

Because of this review, they have had their appointments cancelled and their care has been compromised.’

In one department alone, more than 150 patients’ appointments were cancelled.

A senior clinical source at the hospital said the number of patients affected is ‘definitely hundreds, possibly thousands’.

Speaking on condition they not be named, they added: ‘For patients in need of a whole range of operations, this could have devastating consequences. We are talking about people right across the entire spectrum of care – including abdominal and vascular surgery, or operations on their skin cancer.

‘People’s lives and health are being seriously put at risk. It is an utter disgrace.’

Admin staff  have also changed waiting list categories for patients who are in the Mater’s catchment area and have already been seen by a consultant.

Within the past few weeks, waiting list definitions were changed from ‘Routine’, ‘Soon’, ‘Very Soon’ and ‘Urgent’ to ‘Urgent’, ‘Routine’ and ‘Planned’.

Under the original system, ‘Urgent’ meant a patient needed care within a matter of days or weeks, ‘Very Soon’ was about one to two months, ‘Soon’ was about three to four months and ‘Routine’ was anything between nine months and more than a year.

In cutting the number of categories from four to three, the new system has left many patients facing a longer wait.

Timescales for treatment that had been agreed with consultants are being changed by admin staff – not clinicians. Astonishingly, many of the surgeons had no idea about the changes until they read Dr O’Neill’s letter.

She said that, while the Mater had accepted letters of referral she had written to consultants more than a year ago, admin staff had now decided they could no longer be seen there. This was, they told her, because the patients did not fall under the hospital’s catchment area.

While about 20 patients were affected in her shared practice in Dunboyne, Co. Meath, she said that other GPs in her area had also suddenly started receiving cancellation letters.

The consultants’ group at the Mater has demanded an inquiry. In a series of angry emails among the group, the policy was roundly criticised and the manner in which it is being implemented. And they lay much of the blame on the Special Delivery Unit.

Hospitals face fines or a bill for patients’ treatment elsewhere if they are left waiting for more than a year.

That limit will be reduced to nine months in September.

Paul Connell, the Mater’s head of ophthalmology, wrote on Thursday to the hospital’s deputy operations manager Suzanne Roy demanding an explanation.

He said that if the changes had not been spotted they would have led to ‘multiple critical incidents on the basis of clinical decision-making being taken out of the hands of practising clinicians’.

‘It is evident that the consultant bodies are opposed to this but that it was proceeded with nonetheless,’ he added.

‘It is even more startling that this opposition was voiced but completely ignored.’

Dr O’Neill said last night: ‘You have to wonder just how much more of this is going on not just in the Mater but elsewhere in the country.’

In a statement last night, the Mater said it is meeting its waiting list targets and is not facing fines.

It added: ‘Potential changes to the Mater Hospital’s waiting list classification model have recently been under discussion. As adequate consultation with stakeholders at the hospital has not yet been concluded.

The hospital management has reinstated the original system pending the outcomes of the comprehensive consultation process.’

It said it does not have the resources to continue to take patients from outside its catchment area.

In a statement that reveals how much pressure it is under, the hospital said: ‘Last year the Mater’s outpatient referral numbers was 220,000 up from 160,000 four years ago. The hospital’s budget has dropped from €250million to €196million over the same period.

It said it had to review its ‘access policy’ for outpatient referals, but said no patients who were on the waiting list before the review would be affected.

However, Dr O’Neill said: ‘Until each one of my patients who have had their appointments to see a consultant cancelled receive an apology and are readmitted into the system, this statement is not worth the paper it is printed on.

I just cannot accept this statement, which has all the hallmarks of the typical language I have come to expect from the HSE.’

A leading consultant at the Mater said the statement was just ‘pure PR spin’ and added: ‘The truly shocking thing in all this is the fact that non-clinical staff are deciding who does or doesn’t get clinical care in the hospital.

That is a very, very worrying development.’

One Mater consultant told colleagues in an email: ‘There is undoubtedly a culture emerging here of administrative people “meddling” in clinical management which needs to be strongly opposed.

‘My own waiting list has also been interfered with without my knowledge or consent by someone who is neither competent nor qualified to do so.

‘The damage done to our relationship with our patients, GPs and to our own reputations is irretrievably damaged.

‘Naturally we are very upset and are also trying to deal with this through official channels.’

The writer also blasted management for ‘lack of consultation with senior clinicians prior to making willy-nilly changes which have huge implications for patient care and our and the hospital’s reputation with a view to I don’t know what… perhaps hoping to save money?

‘It does not bear any resemblance to the Mater culture which essentially puts our patients first.’

‘There have been several recent incidents where we have belatedly learnt about changes that have been already made which pose risks to patients and expose ourselves to potential medicolegal risk.’

‘I was consulted regarding this centralised waiting list booking idea and I told her it was a bad idea and that I was opposed to it.

‘My opinion, having been sought, was then ignored as it clearly didn’t suit.’

Michael Flatley healer treated ex-TD before he died

FORMER Fianna Fáil TD Michael Fitzpatrick was being treated by dancer Michael Flatley’s healer in the months before he died.

He passed away last week after a battle against Motor Neuron Disease, which he was diagnosed with in March last year.

Although he had undergone a drug treatment programme organised by specialists, including Ryan Tubridy’s brother, consultant neurologist Professor Niall Tubridy, he had also been treated by Michael O’Doherty.

He is the ‘energy healer’ Flatley turned to cure a mystery illness that led him to cancel a tour in 2006.

O’Doherty, who runs Plexus Health-Care System in Ennis, Co. Clare, works by rebalancing ‘life energy’ and says that ‘if people believe, have hope and expect they can get better, then they can’.

Just months before former Kildare North TD Mr Fitzpatrick died from Motor Neuron Disease – for which there is no cure – he spoke to the Irish Daily Mail about his treatment with O’Doherty.

‘Michael is a great help to me and I feel a lot better.  It’s not a cure but I do feel better in myself,’ he said.

Last night, a family friend added: ‘Michael seemed to do Michael a lot of good.’

After Mr Fitzpatrick spoke about his alternative therapy, O’Doherty called for an overhaul of the way patients are treated in Ireland.

However, the call for a more ‘integrated’ approach to patient care came amid some concern  about O’Doherty, who ‘treats’ people with ‘every conceivable problem from back pain to depression, to cancer, asthma and arthritis’.

The disquiet has increased since the death in March last year of Limerick woman, Hilary O’Carroll, who said she had been cured of cancer by O’Doherty.

In 2009 she talked of how she was free of the ovarian cancer she was diagnosed with the previous year.

In a video on O’Doherty’s website, for the launch of his Just Imagine book, she says: ‘In December 2008 I was given between 12 and 18 months to live.

‘When I had the final CT scan in July of this year, seven months to the day of having being diagnosed and the CT scan said there was absolutely no trace whatsoever of cancer.’

Sadly, five months later, she died in Limerick’s Milford hospice.

Professor Senator John Crown last night said: ‘It’s the usual unsubstantiated turgid waffle that relies on testimonials, which mean little or nothing.’

He is infuriated by O’Doherty’s advice on breast checks. O’Doherty said women shouldn’t look for lumps, saying: ‘If you genuinely believe that you have something and fear that something, then you will create it.’

But Professor Crown said: ‘People who tell women that they should not examine their breasts for cancerous lumps, is doing a horrific disservice to women.

‘The evidence is very clear that early diagnosis improves the prospects for cure.’

Bio-energy healing involves therapists moving their hands over a person’s body to re-balance their ‘life force energy within and around the human body’.

When the energy becomes imbalanced, says O’Doherty on his website, it results in disease and sickness.

But he says he ‘scans the energy field’ before conducting a ‘re-balancing’ exercise which entails using ‘a series of specially developed protocols to treat the patient’.

O’Doherty and Plexus HealthCare co-founder Tom Griffin claim to have helped ‘thousands of people all over the world’, some of whom have signed up to be taught how to work as a bio-energy healer, at training sessions which can cost more than €500-a-head.