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Why did the HSE lie about having protective equipment for doctors?

One of the more inspiring things about moments like the present national crisis is watching the way people from all parts of society are willing to work together to solve big problems. For example, in the past few days, doctors and nurses across the country have been making it known that the biggest problem they face is a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) – facemasks, gloves, that sort of thing. Obviously, if you’re working with COVID-19 patients, it’s helpful, in so far as possible, to be protected to make sure you yourself don’t get the virus. A medical worker being knocked out by a bout of illness at a time like this doesn’t just imperil their own life, but the lives of the rest of us who may find that there’s nobody left around to treat us.

As we reported first here yesterday, doctors have been appealing to the public directly for help sourcing such protective equipment:

And, when the call goes out, people and business respond, like this very good guy here:

All of this raises an important question, though: Why did the Health Service Executive decide to lie about having enough protective equipment in the first place?

As noted contrarian Paddy Cosgrave points out, last Friday, the HSE issued a statement to media outlets claiming that there was “adequate stock” of all equipment across the country. But that statement was false:

Cosgrave, best known to most of us for being the founder of the Web Summit, has probably been the loudest critic of the Irish Government during the crisis – not that there’s been significant competition for that job. At times, he’s gone miles over the top, but in this instance, he’s been proven correct.

In fact, to his credit, he’s been working with the Chinese Communists to deliver on the shortfall here in Ireland – here’s a delivery coming in this morning from Chinese company Alibaba:

So the problem will be solved, through the efforts of Irish business, the public, and the Chinese Communists who caused the whole problem in the first place. That’s the good news.

But why didn’t the HSE just say last Friday “we’re concerned that we may not have enough equipment and are asking the public for help”? Why issue a statement that turned out to be a blatant falsehood?

It’s taken frontline doctors and nurses to stand up and come forward and make clear that their lives and health are at risk, days later, for this action to happen. It’s more than possible now that doctors and nurses have been exposed and infected who need not have been exposed and infected.

There’s a difference between recognising that the Government is trying to do its best – which we do, here at Gript – and accepting every line of Government spin about its response, which is what much of the rest of the media seems to do.

Government agencies like the HSE are always going to say “we’re prepared, we have everything we need” whether that’s true or not, because it’s deeply engrained in their DNA, and they’re terrified of being criticised for not having enough of a certain thing in stockpile. Even in these extraordinary times, they’ll continue to do that, because it’s as reflexive as breathing is. That’s why you should always treat their statements with some scepticism.

In this case, the HSE issued an outright lie, and it put people at risk.

It’s a pity, in a country with so many journalists, that it took Paddy Cosgrave, of all people, to expose it.

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