Hospital chaplains have dismissed criticism after the HSE sent a letter to the Bishop of Waterford and Lismore saying they will no longer give out a list of inpatients to priests who wish to visit parishioners. Last week Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan was informed by the management of South Tipperary General Hospital that priests wouldn’t be given the list due to new EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
This caused some concern among priests in the diocese, however Catholic chaplains have agreed with this move saying it has been standard practice in many “acute hospitals” far before the new GDPR rules were introduced. Hospital chaplains employed by the HSE have access to patient lists.
Chairman of the Hospital Chaplain’s Association, Fr Jack Kelly says: “Patients have a right to privacy and no one, whether it be a priest or healer or anyone selling a newspaper or providing services has the freedom just to walk into a hospital and visit people.
He said patients need visitors such as friends and family, but “they don’t need unsolicited visits from people who think they have something to offer that the patient wants, it’s up to the patient to decide what they want”.
Fr Gerry Byrne, chaplain in the Blackrock Clinic in Dublin, reiterated this position, saying people who are not “paid chaplains” are not “entitled” to that sensitive information. Family or a patient are the ones to choose whether they would like a certain priest to visit, he added.
However Fr Kelly added that if a hospital is not providing adequate chaplaincy services and relying on local priests to cover for an overworked chaplain, then a contractual arrangement should be reached and the priests should be paid by the HSE and would have access to the patient lists.