10. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Health the status of the work being carried out at Beaumont Hospital in respect of publishing a freedom of information disclosure log, as per the Freedom of Information Act 2014, on the hospital’s website; if this process will be expedited; the timeframe for completion; if he will direct the hospital to publish as much information as possible in an open and accessible manner on a routine basis outside of freedom of information; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 6097/18 asked on 08 Feb 2018)
Deputy Alan Kelly: This is a very specific question. It asks the Minister the status of the work being carried out at Beaumont Hospital in respect of publishing a freedom of information disclosure log, as per the Freedom of Information Act 2014, on the hospital’s website; if this process will be expedited; the timeframe for completion; if he will direct the hospital to publish as much information as possible in an open and accessible manner on a routine basis outside of freedom of information; and if he will make a statement on the matter and why this has not happened to date.
Deputy Simon Harris: I thank the Deputy for this question, which has caught my attention because we are very clear on what people should do in this regard. Beaumont Hospital is a prescribed body, as the Deputy knows, in its own right for the purposes of freedom of information. Statutory responsibility for the hospital’s compliance with the provisions and requirements of the Freedom of Information Act 2014 rests with the hospital authorities. Inquiries have been made with the hospital on the publication, under section 8 of the legislation, of its publication scheme. The hospital has advised that work is under way collating and compiling information for publication on the Beaumont Hospital website. This will include up-to-date details of the services provided by the hospital, high-level policies and procedures, financial information, procurement data and other relevant information.
I am advised that, in parallel with this, the hospital has recently commenced a major overhaul of its website, which it anticipates will be completed by quarter 2 of this year, including the publication of the publication scheme and the disclosure log. On foot of the question received from the Deputy, I will write to the chair and chief executive of Beaumont Hospital requesting that the work under way is expedited and that as much public information as possible is provided outside of the freedom of information process. I welcome any further thoughts or insights that the Deputy might have on the matter.
Deputy Alan Kelly: I clearly asked the question for a reason. The hospital is running afoul of the Act. It is not meeting the requirements of the 2014 Act, which allowed six months for implementation, and it is now 2018. What is it hiding? There is no disclosures log on the website and there is a link to nothing. I know a number of freedom of information requests and other requests for information have been made of the hospital but these are not public. The information given out is contradictory. Why is it not publishing the information in order that we all might see it? The hospital is not like other hospitals that are maintaining the log and adhering to Freedom of Information Act requirements. I want to know why it is behaving in this manner. I appreciate what the Minister is saying and that he will expedite it. I am asking this as an oral question because I already asked it as a written question in November 2017. The answer was the exact same as the one the Minister has read out here. There is something going on. I ask that the Department looks at Beaumont Hospital and what is happening in all the other hospitals. Why are all the other hospitals adhering to this and providing the information as required but Beaumont Hospital is not?
Deputy Simon Harris: I thank Deputy Kelly. There is nothing the Deputy has said that I disagree with in terms of the law of the land, which is very clear and there for everyone to see. I am informed that the deadline for the publication of this scheme was 14 April 2016 so clearly anybody who does not publish is not in compliance with the Act. The Office of the Information Commissioner is the body this can be examined by but I do not think that is the point. The point is why it is not being done. In light of the Deputy bringing it directly to my attention by way of oral parliamentary question, I have now written to the chief executive officer and the chair of the board. I will also ask my Department to probe it further. The law is very clear and everybody should publish their logs. I expect Beaumont Hospital to do the same.
Deputy Alan Kelly: That is why I asked it as an oral question. Beaumont Hospital stands out. I know people who have asked numerous questions. I have put in freedom of information requests and the information has not been published or sent out and there are contradictions. The hospital, as other hospitals, is supposed to routinely publish its key performance indicators, KPIs. It does not do so. Its annual report from 2017, which refers to the year 2016, refers to its KPIs without providing detail. It seems the information provided when requested by numerous people about bed capacity at the hospital changes quite a bit. This hospital is way behind for some reason that needs to become public in providing freedom of information requests and other information through the website, which is their statutory role. It should be available for everyone. Why is this the case? What is being hidden? If something is being hidden, we need to find out why the hospital is an outlier compared with all other hospitals. The idea that the hospital would write to me late last year or tell the Minister today that it is putting in place a plan to do it is not acceptable. I want all this information available by this day next week because it has had four years to do it.
Acting Chairman (Deputy Eugene Murphy): The Deputy is preventing his colleagues from having a chance to ask a question.
Deputy Simon Harris: I have outlined the action I will take. In terms of compliance with the law, Beaumont Hospital is a prescribed body in its own right. The Office of the Information Commissioner oversees the implementation of the Act. It is disappointing to hear this because Beaumont is a hospital I very often reference in terms of its very positive progress on the number of patients on trolleys and waiting lists-----
Deputy Alan Kelly: So do I.
Deputy Simon Harris: -----as does Deputy Kelly. I do not know the reason for this but now the Deputy has brought it to my attention, I will correspond with the hospital and try to establish the facts and revert to the Deputy.