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Chapter 16 — Hospitals

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Current circumstances


This chapter summarises witness reports given in evidence to the Confidential Committee in relation to 18 different facilities categorised under the general heading of Hospitals. Among the facilities reported to the Committee and categorised as hospitals for the purpose of this Report were general hospitals, specialist and rehabilitation hospitals, and county homes. The facilities reported in this section were funded to provide a service to the public and were managed by a variety of organisations including religious communities, boards of management and State bodies.



The Report refers to hospital admissions between 1935 and 1991. The 56-year period covers the date of earliest admission and latest discharge of witnesses who reported abuse in hospital settings. Seven (7) of the facilities were city based and 11 were in provincial and rural areas.


There were 33 reports of abuse made by 31 witnesses, 17 male and 14 female, in relation to the 18 hospitals or other facilities categorised by the Committee as hospitals. One witness reported abuse in three different hospitals. There were between two and seven reports in relation to four of the hospitals and the remaining 14 hospitals were each the subject of single reports.


Four (4) witnesses reported abuse in other settings in addition to hospitals, two reports were made in relation to Industrial Schools and one each in relation to a Children’s Home and another residential facility. The abuse details regarding those accounts are recorded in the relevant chapters of this Report.


Family of origin, place of birth and current residence details will be differentiated by gender when there are notable differences. Among the witnesses who reported abuse in hospitals, eight were born in Dublin and, of the remaining 22 witnesses, 21 were from 15 other counties in Ireland and one was born outside the State. All 31 witnesses reported that they came from two-parent households, although at the time of admission six witnesses reported that their parents were either widowed or had separated.


Witnesses reported their parents’ occupational status as shown in Table 88:1
Occupational status Males Females Total witnesses
Professional worker 0 1 1
Managerial and technical 1 1 2
Non-manual 0 1 1
Skilled manual 2 2 4
Semi-skilled 1 2 3
Unskilled 10 5 15
Unavailable 2 3 5
Total 16 15 31


Information regarding parents’ occupational status was not reported, or available, in five instances.


Twenty four (24) of the 31 witnesses reported having ongoing contact with their parents and/or other family members during their time in hospital and when they were discharged. Four (4) other witnesses reported having little or no family contact following their admission and feeling abandoned by their parents in the process. Information regarding family contact was not available about the remaining three witnesses.


All 31 witnesses reported having siblings and 27 came from families of more than four children.


Six (6) witnesses reported having siblings who were also in out-of-home care. Five (5) of those witnesses reported that they and their siblings were admitted to out-of-home care in the context of parental death, illness or impoverished circumstances and neglect. They were admitted to Children’s Homes, Industrial Schools or county homes. Another witness reported having a sibling who was also in a long-term hospital placement for medical reasons.


At the time of their hearing most witnesses were aged between 40 and 59 years and three witnesses were aged under 40 years, as the following table indicates:
Age range Males Females Total witnesses
20–29 years 1 1 2
30–39 years 1 0 1
40–49 years 6 3 9
50–59 years 6 6 12
60–69 years 3 3 6
70 + years 0 1 1
Total 17 14 31


Twenty three (23) witnesses were living in Ireland at the time of their hearing and eight were resident in the UK.


Witnesses reported being admitted to hospital in various circumstances for both brief and lengthy periods of time. Among the reasons stated for admission to these facilities were acute and chronic illness, physical disability, convalescence, and for social reasons such as parental abandonment and family crises caused by illness, death and marital separation.


Sixteen (16) witnesses reported being hospitalised for the treatment of illnesses and disabilities that necessitated lengthy admissions and that, in a number of instances, resulted in life-long health and mobility impairments.


Eight (8) of the 16 witnesses reported having serious injuries, illnesses and physical disabilities including spina bifida and polio, which required medical treatment not available to them at the time on an outpatient basis. Five (5) other witnesses who were hospitalised for the treatment of chronic conditions reported being diagnosed with tuberculosis and were in-patients for between one and 14 years. Three (3) witnesses reported that they were admitted to hospital as a result of a combination of illness/disability and what they believed was their family’s inability to care for them. Some admissions that were believed to have been initiated as family respite placements extended into long-term admissions due to the unavailability of out-patient facilities, especially in rural areas.

  1. The categorisation is based on Census 2002, Volume 6 Occupations, Appendix 2, Definitions – Labour Force. In two-parent households the father’s occupation was recorded and in other instances the occupational status of the sole parent was recorded, in so far as it was known.
  2. Section 1(1) as amended by section 3 of the 2005 Act.
  3. Section 1(1)(a).
  4. Section 1(1)(b).
  5. Section 1(1)(c) as amended by section 3 of the 2005 Act.
  6. Section 1(1)(d) as amended by section 3 of the 2005 Act.
  7. The categorisation is based on Census 2002, Volume 6 Occupations, Appendix 2, Definitions – Labour Force. In two-parent households the father’s occupation was recorded and in other instances the occupational status of the sole parent was recorded, in so far as it was known.