Outrage over Catholic patient list ban

Outrage over Catholic patient list ban Fr Michael Toomey (right) with Archbishop Okolo

Religious and lay people have expressed concern and outrage following an alleged letter from the HSE which bans priests from easily identifying Catholic patients in hospitals.

According to Fr Michael Toomey of Clonmel’s Ss Peter’s and Pauls, priests and clergy will no longer be provided with a list of parishioners who are in-patients in South Tipperary General Hospital. The change allegedly comes after the HSE wrote to Waterford and Lismore’s bishop Phonsie Cullinan, detailing that this practice is now prohibited following the HSE directive made in compliance with the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Speaking to RTE’s Liveline today, Fr Toomey said: “We were advised to let our parishioners know that if anyone who is in hospital wishes to see their local priest, then either the patient or the family have to contact their local priest that they will be happy to go up and see them.”

He added that the list is vital for priests to identify Catholic laity, and that parishioners may lose out on needed pastoral care.

“This has just kind of come out of the blue, we’ve got this letter, that’s it. There’s been no discussion with us as clergy who actually assist in the hospital and have clergy passes, Fr Toomey said.

“It has just been decided and that’s it. So, when I did read it out to the parishioners last Sunday, there were gasps, people were really shocked and saying why is this happening now.”

Commenting on the new position of the hospital, one caller said: “We’re very vulnerable when we do end up in hospital and I wouldn’t like to be taken suddenly one day and have a heart attack and go up. I want a Catholic priest to hear my Confession, to give me the Last rites – it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to die if you receive the Last Rights, it can be a Sacrament of healing, and I want that.”