Saolta University Health Care Group, which runs the Portiuncula Hospital in Co Galway, says the review team is independent, and will be supported by investigatory staff drawn from other HSE hospital groups. Joe O’Shaughnessy

Investigation into maternity services at Co Galway hospital to take at least five months

Ireland used to have more widespread voluntary folic acid fortification than other European countries and the rate of birth defects fell up to 2008. However, it started rising again in 2009

Folic acid taken before and during pregnancy prevents most forms of neural tube defects such as spina bifida

Department chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan had recommended in his report that the Portlaoise unit be placed under the governance of the Coombe in order to provide quality and safe healthcare. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/The Irish Times.

Agreement due to be signed at HSE headquarters in Dublin on Thursday morning

“Heart disease remains a leading cause of death and disability in both parts of Ireland and high by European standards,” said Dr Roger O’Sullivan, director of the Centre for Ageing Research and Development in Ireland, which funded the study.

Rates of smoking and obesity in over-50s higher in Republic than in Northern Ireland

The Coombe hospital in Dublin. It balked at taking on the Portlaoise task without extra staff and resources

Report recommended maternity unit be placed under governance of Coombe Women’s Hospital to provide quality and safe care

Tony O Brien, director general of the  HSE, said he didn’t dispute the serious problems at the hospital. Photo: David Sleator/The Irish Times

Watchdog report into hospital could trigger legal action, warns Health Service Executive

Dr Wilfrid Hoover accused the hospital of “dilly-dallying” in carrying out an internal review into the death of Co Westmeath woman Ellen Devery-Allen in December 2013. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Faulty record-keeping by doctors noted but death not attributed to treatment by medics

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said he wants to see the Portlaoise hospital report published but added two organisations using public money should not be in “court situations”.

Taoiseach says agencies using public money should not be in ‘court situations’

HSE director general Tony O’Brien: described the women’s accounts as “unverified” and said the draft Hiqa report lacks accuracy and balance. Photograph: Alan Betson

Criticism of medical staff in care of 83 women but HSE challenges report

Over 30 per cent of mothers giving birth were single and 27 per cent were born outside Ireland, according to the HSE’s National Perinatal Statistic Report for 2013. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Past decade saw 24% rise in number of twin births, HSE report finds

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has said it is not appropriate for government agencies to sue each other and that he would expect two bodies to sort out any dispute they had without resorting to the law.

Minister for Health responds to HSE threat to take legal action over Hiqa baby deaths report

Former minister for health James Reilly commissioned the report over a year ago. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Hiqa critical of midlands hospital where five babies died in controversial circumstances

Coloured mammogram of a woman’s breast that contains a cancerous tumour. The new test can help determine the most effective type of treatment for patients.

Over half of participants in study changed to hormone therapy, saving HSE €800,000

In five cases involving programme refugees since 2011, the HSE when asked to provide treatment in the Irish health service did not do so, it has confirmed.

Five programme refugees diverted after HSE says medical treatment will not be available

St Vincent’s hospital: Overcrowding at one of Dublin’s main teaching hospitals has almost doubled overnight after 40 “hidden beds” were included in the figures for the first time. Photograph: Dave Meehan

74 patients recorded as being on trolleys after 40 ‘hidden beds’ included in figures

Director of Mental Health Reform Shari McDaid: Case raised questions about access to investigations for patients in the centres involved Photograph: Alan Betson

Concern expressed at failure to act quicker in instance of nurse struck off for sexual conduct

Ireland already has by far the largest incidence of cystic fibrosis in Europe. Photograph: The Irish Times

Debilitating illness set to become disease of adults predominantly, rather than children

Critics of the proposals emanating from a UN agency have dubbed them the “Irish model law” because of the alleged role of an official from the former Irish Medicines Board  in drafting them

Proposals to tackle counterfeit drugs dubbed as the ‘Irish model law’ by critics

The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland found eight nurses guilty of professional misconduct in its latest  findings

Two nurses had relationships with psychiatric clients and third stole €24,000

Leo Varadkar: the Minister for Health’s proposed Bill on assisted legal reproduction can do nothing to regulate the practice of overseas surrogacy. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Complications over babies’ status as birth mother is actual mother for legal reasons

Families Through Surrogacy, which conducted the survey, said about half (12) of the 25 Irish people or couples who organised a surrogacy abroad travelled to Thailand, seven went to Georgia, five to India and one to the US

Survey shows 25 couples paid up to €150,000 for women overseas to bear them a child

Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher: “There are more than 2,500 children who have been waiting more than three years to be seen.” Photograph: Alan Betson

Numbers now above 17,600 but only children with greatest need provided with treatment

Over 70 per cent of hip fractures were suffered by women; this rose to almost 80 per cent among those aged 90 or over. Photograph: Getty Images

National Office of Clinical Audit report finds lack of preventative follow-up

The report says that most of the 25 recommendations made last June by the group, chaired by Prof Brian MacCraith, president of Dublin City University, are in the process of being implemented. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Most of MacCraith group's 25 recommendations made in June still being implemented

Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer of the Department of Health: “The indicators in this report signal that certain services require further analysis and examination in order to identify if a problem exists.” Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Report shows what areas are working and where things can improve

A Department of Health spokeswoman pointed out the new meningitis vaccine has not been included in any national immunisation programme by any other country. Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

NIAC says vaccine should be provided nationally if ‘cost-effective’ price can be agreed

Tullamore, Blanchardstown, Cavan, Naas and Cork rates are ‘significantly higher’

Maker of ‘exorbitantly priced’ blood disorder drug declines invite to appear before TDs

Pharmaceutical industry representatives have rejected claims that Irish drug prices are high compared to other European countries

Pharmaceutical industry rejects charges of high costs for prescription medicines

Minister and HSE says audit showing excessive spending is still draft

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar at the Leopardstown races. Photograph:  INPHO/Donall Farme

Varadkar urged consumers to get covered before age-related levy in May

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation said it would continue its campaign until the registration fee was reduced to last year’s level of €100. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

Union members hold protests against increase and say they will continue campaign

 The Midland Regional Hospital:  it has been at the centre of controversy since early last year when it emerged that five babies had died in similar circumstances after being delivered there. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

Former HSE director calls performance in dealing with complaints unacceptable

Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe, Co Galway: Measures were introduced after the detection of seven cases in which babies died or were seriously injured

Department of Health expressed concern about maternity safety at Portiuncula

Warren and Lorraine Reilly from Loughrea who lost two  children while attending Portiuncla Hospital. Photograph: Andrew Downes

HSE resisted issuing apologies to families over troublesome births, documents reveal

Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe, Co Galway. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

In February the inquiry into the hospital was expanded to cover at least 12 cases

Undated photographs of Gerry Feeney, supplied by his family

Minister has contacted Beaumont Hospital chairwoman Ann Fitzgerald about the case

Independent midwife Philomena Canning (centre) has been reinstated by the Health Service Executive to assist in home births. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times.

Solicitors for HSE say ‘necessary foundation’ no longer exists for temporary suspension

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar: ‘proposing something of a halfway house’ for legislation on assisted human reproduction. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

Analysis: obvious focus of disagreement is plan to legislate for surrogacy

Aviva is promoting GP consultations for their members via smartphone while the VHI has teamed up with an online service through which customers can get prescriptions. Photograph: Getty Images

IMO calls on Government to stop health insurers offering GP services by Skype

Clinics fear the Children and Family Relationships Bill, which proposes to create a national register of sperm and egg donors, will lead to a reduction in donations and encourage more couples with fertility issues to seek help abroad. Photograph: Alan Betson /The Irish Times

Fertility clinics fear Children and Family Relationships Bill will lead to reduction in donations

Breast cancer survivor Teresa Doran, Mullingar calls for an extension of the screening programme at Leinster House in 2014. The only breast cancer surgeon at Letterkenny General Hospital says the Saolta University Hospitals Group want to close the service down and centralise it in Galway. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

Donegal cancer surgeon Michael Sugrue raises concerns over lack of resources

Overall, death rates have been falling for over half a century, but the rate of improvement across social groups varied greatly during the boom, Prof Richard Layte of the ESRI said. Photograph: Getty Images

Study highlights role of alcohol in driving gap in life expectancy across social groups

The ESRI research adds to the science supporting further measures to reduce alcohol consumption, by marking the role played by digestive diseases (notably cirrhosis caused by excess drinking) in the mortality rates between rich and poor. Photograph: The Irish Times

Stark difference noticeable along class lines, with better-off accounting for most of gains

 Prof Richard Layte of the ESRI said the research provided the first analysis of the way differentials in mortality changed during the last three decades in Ireland. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

Improvement ‘took off’ from 2000 but seeds of trend sown earlier during 1990s

Key driver in improved mortality rate has been reductions in smoking. Photograph: The Irish Times

Gains in living standards and adoption of healthier lifestyles cited as key reasons

There were 38 maternal deaths between 2009 and 2012, a Maternal Death Enquiry report says.Photograph: Thinkstock

A new Confidential Maternal Death Enquiry report shows fatalities are up 22 per cent

Declan Egan says he faced ‘ethical dilemma’ during operation and acted to minimise risk

Hiqa wrote to the hospital last November saying it was concerned over the risk to patients from a variety of issues identified by inspectors. Photograph: Thinkstock/Getty Images

Hiqa expresses concern over ‘especially poor standards’ on hospital wards

Hiqa chief executive Phelim Quinn: his criticism of Ombudsman Peter Tyndall is revealed in documents obtained through a Freedom of Information request. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons.

Hiqa chief calls Ombudsman’s remarks about handling of complaints ‘inaccurate’

Examining a mammography test: about 3,000 cases of female breast cancer are diagnosed each year. Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

New referrals to State’s eight breast cancer centres doubled in recent years

There was a 22 per cent rise in the number of maternal deaths in 2010-2012, according to the second report of the Confidential Maternal Death Enquiry. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Pregnancy-related mortality rate has now been found to higher than that of the UK

What will the Children and Family Relationships Bill do?

At least 12 births where issues arose are to be investigated in the review of Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe, Co Galway. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

UK obstetrician Prof James Walker to lead review of 12 cases at Galway hospital

With overcrowding at record highs, here’s seven ideas to end it.

With patients on trolleys at record high, what can be done to resolve the problem?

Liquorice: woman said she had “habitually” eaten it on a daily basis as it was on sale in her local shop

Patient (56) ended up in hospital with headache, nausea and high blood pressure

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar deserves credit for this first step towards much-needed regulation on assisted human reproduction. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Analysis: Scant detail in Leo Varadkar’s proposals except in relation to surrogacy

At least one of those involved in a surrogacy arrangement would have to be a genetic parent under the proposals to be brought to Government by Minister for Health Leo Varadkar.

Ministers approve drafting of law on assisted human reproduction

More than 500 people are awaiting admission to hospital on trolleys in emergency departments around the country. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

Record 55 patients awaiting admission in University Hospital Limerick

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar: More money would also have to be made available for home care packages. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Minister calls for action as overcrowding in hospitals pushes trolley crisis above 540

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar: The surrogacy proposals are expected to include a provision that at least one of those involved has to be a genetic parent. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Leo Varadkar proposal that one parent would share genes aims to end legal vacuum

New restrictions on the use of sunbeds, including a ban on promotions and a requirement to use protective eyewear, are to be introduced next month.

Leo Varadkar announces measures including use of protective eyewear and warning signs

St James Hospital has ceased paying unauthorised allowances worth almost €500,000 a year to its senior staff

St James Hospital says it ceased paying unauthorised allowances worth almost €500,000 a year to senior staff

 Minister of State Kathleen Lynch: on a damage-limitation exercise.  Photograph: Alan Betson

Government can’t risk the wrath of the ‘grey lobby’ by increasing charges, but it needs to do something to address the root cause(...)

Inequality from different backgrounds among here worst in Europe and America

Older people will not have to pay more to bridge funding gaps in the Fair Deal nursing scheme, Minister of State for Primary Care Kathleen Lynch has promised. .Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

Kathleen Lynch promises existing Fair Deal contributions will not be raised

People in the scheme contribute up to 80 per cent of their assessable income and 7.5 per cent of the value of their assets per annum, but this may have to be increased. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Funding for long-term nursing home care ‘unsustainable’, warns Minister

Minister of State for Primary Care Kathleen Lynch has said the Fair Deal scheme  would need additional funding to reduce waiting lists and invest in community supports, and ensure patients did not have to go into care. File photograph: John Stillwell/PA Wire

Nursing home scheme is ‘Achilles heel’ of health service, says HSE chief

Warren and Lorraine Reilly, who lost two babies after treatment at Portiuncula hospital, have appealed to Minister for Health Leo Varadkar (above) to ensure the hospital review is extended.  Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

HSE boss Tony O’Brien says some maternity cases raised go back 35 years

A HSE inquiry is to  cover the delivery of seven oxygen-deprived babies at Portiuncula  Hospital last year, two of whom died. File photograph: Getty Images

Inquiry into delivery of seven oxygen-deprived babies last year, two of whom died

Among the areas where health services are under serious pressure are hospital emergency departments and maternity services, while there are also growing waiting lists for vital procedures and primary care. File photograph: Getty Images

HSE only received half additional money it sought to run health services in 2015

 Warren and Lorraine Reilly from Loughrea, Co Galway, who lost two  children while attending Portiuncula Hospital. File photograph: Andrew Downes

Report into delivery of baby shows serious failings in management of mother’s labour

In October 2012, the Government unilaterally cut pay by 30 per cent for all consultants appointed after that date.  However, this has been substantially reversed following the recent negotiations with the IMO. File photograph:  Thinkstock/Getty Images

Posts will offer starting salaries of up to €155,000 for doctors with experience

Paracetamol and liquid detergent capsules were the most common causes of infant poisoning cases handled by a Dublin children’s hospital according to a new study.

Research by Dublin children’s hospital prompts call for child-resistant packaging

A HSE audit has found 13 ‘significant incidents’ where a breech birth was diagnosed in advanced labour in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda between May 2012 and June 2014.  File photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

HSE says cases involve diagnosis in advanced labour at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital

The Irish Hospital Consultants Association has criticized draft plans to tackle overcrowding, saying “targets for the delivery of acute care should be based on medical need and not budget limits”.

Association for Emergency Medicine fear likely impact of flu on over-crowded departments

One of the most widely advocated pieces of dietary advice from the 1970s and 1980s - to cut intake of fat and saturated fat in order to reduce the risk of a heart attack - was wrong and should never have been introduced, according to new research.

Dietary advice, given to millions of people between 1977 and 1983, lacked solid evidence

With complications arising in a minority of laser-eye surgery cases, the amount of litigation is increasing. Photograph: The Irish Times

At least 21 cases taken by aggrieved individuals against eye-laser clinics since 2008

Inclusion Ireland analysed the first 50 inspection reports of residential services for people with disabilities drawn up by Hiqa last year. Photograph: The Irish Times

Report says health watchdog is not listening to concerns of intellectually disabled

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has rounded on the National Association of General Practitioners after it called on members not to sign up to the Government’s proposal for free care for under-6s. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times.

NAGP tells members they have moral duty to prevent introduction of plan for under-6s

The danger within: the survival rate for lung-cancer patients has increased from 10 per cent to 15 per cent. Illustration: Sciepro/SPL/Getty

We’re getting better at treating cancer, with survival rates growing all the time. So why is the incidence of the disease expected(...)

“What faith are we to have now in the Holy See’s commitment to the Convention on the Rights of the Child?” former president of Ireland Mary McAleese  has asked in a letter to The Irish Times.  File photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

Former president questions Vatican’s commitment to Rights of Child

1 out of 7 standards met and previous reports critical of Ballydowd

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar (left) with Prof Des Fitzgerald, principal of UCD’s College of Health Sciences (centre) and Beacon Hospital chief executive Michael Cullen, at the launch of the UCD Beacon Academy. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Hospitals could be built by private sector then leased for public use, says Minister

Mehret Yemane from Sudan,  now living in Portarlington: “My brothers held my legs, the elder held the blade. There was no anaesthetic before she cut me.”   Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Mehret Yemane describes having horrific procedure for fourth time as a 9-year-old

 Up to a dozen women have been treated at the first dedicated clinic for sufferers of female genital mutilation (FGM) since it opened last year, according to Dr Caitríona Henchion, medical director of the the clinic. File photograph: Hugh Macknight/PA Wire.

HSE-funded clinic aims to raise awareness in medical and affected communities

The committee found Dr Al-Zayyat failed to disclose that strict conditions were attached to her continued practice by the General Medical Council  in the UK when she applied for a post in Tallaght hospital in 2008

Doctor failed to disclose strict conditions attached to her continued practice

The product, which will cost €25, could be available for widespread use by the end of 2016. Photograph: Hugo Philpott/PA Wire

Check will be non-invasive and is aimed at finding cancer earlier

Data blog: Analysis shows January as second-worst month ever with 601 on trollies

Prof Martin Corbally  ended up before the Medical Council, whose fitness-to-practise committee found him guilty of poor professional performance, over an operation carried out incorrectly in 2010 on a two-year-old girl. File photograph: Aidan Crawley/The Irish Times

Analysis: Striking balance between grievances and medics’ right to fair hearing is critical

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has decided to make a life-saving Soliris drug available to Irish patients despite criticising its “exorbitant” and ‘astronomical’ cost.

Patients with rare blood diseases to get €430k drug after pressure from Government TDs

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar is right to say that “we have been talking about this for too long”, even if  this neglects his own part in this delay. Photograph: Sasko Lazarov

Public tolerance of the many negatives of alcohol has long since evaporated

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar: he set up an emergency department taskforce, co-chaired by representatives of the HSE and the INMO, which met on Monday. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Doubts about measures ordered by Leo Varadkar to free up beds as numbers stay high

Clinical psychologist Dr Niall Muldoon is set to become the new Ombudsman for Children, succeeding Emily Logan

Successor to Emily Logan is clinical psychologist and child protection expert

Warren and Lorraine Reilly, who lost two babies following care at Portiuncula Hospital. Photo: Andrew Downes

Families who experienced problem deliveries want their cases included in review

Fergus Finlay: ‘We want to try and figure out what works best and to change the culture.’ Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Initiative run by Barnardos head Fergus Finlay will involve variety of prominent people

Each week the  radiology department at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital can carry out only 42 of the 74 new requests it receives for scans, according to a memo from Dr Angela Byrne, director of the department, to the medical board

Waiting times for scans have continued to climb in State’s largest paediatric hospital

Witness: James Gogarty at Dublin Castle after giving evidence in 1999. Photograph: Eric Luke

The Flood tribunal – aka the Mahon tribunal – has been forced to withdraw some of its corruption findings. What happens now?

The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland has warned nurses they will be taken off the register if they do not pay the full €150 fee for this year. The fee for 2014 was €100 and for 2013 it was €88. File photograph: David Cheskin/PA Wire

Nursing and Midwifery Board warns nurses of removal from register if they do not pay full €150 fee

HSE figures show delayed discharges, at 835, were a major problem back in November; the persistence of high numbers of delayed discharges after Christmas was a major contributory factor behind the trolley crisis.

Leo Varadkar admits figures will get worse but promises hospital activity will be ramped up ‘subject to finance being available’ (...)

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