A leading Catholic cleric has revealed that Irish priests are being denied the right to access information about parishioners undergoing hospital treatment.
Fr Brendan Hoban, spokesman for the Association of Catholic Priests, has confirmed that hospitals will no longer make their admissions lists available to members of the clergy.
A change in Ireland’s Data Protection law has forced hospitals to deny parish priests any information on sick parishioners.
The Catholic priests are unhappy at the move according to their representative body.
“Generally the priests regret that the list isn’t available for practical reasons,” Fr Hoban told the Irish Times.
“The new legislation could lead to situations where priests visiting parishioners might be oblivious to the fact that other parishioners were also in the hospital.
“The other side of it – nowadays people tend to be taken to hospital and released from hospital very quickly. It just makes the practice difficult for priests visiting hospitals.”
The Irish Health Service executive has confirmed that it is restricted from passing on sensitive information about patients to all third parties, priests included.
In a statement, the HSE confirmed: “Any priest or clergyman who wishes to visit a patient may do so and the HSE will do what it can to facilitate meetings between patients and their spiritual advisers.
“However, the HSE cannot release sensitive personal information to any person in breach of the provisions of the data protection legislation.”
The Rev. Gerald Field, chaplain at Tullamore’s Midland Regional Hospital, believes the new directive increases the level of privacy available to a patient and his or her family.
“It puts the onus on the family that if they want their rector or parish priest to come in, they let them know,” said Rev. Field.