Cavan maternity unit review begins after four baby deaths

Health Service Executive commissions four external investigations into fatalities

The HSE has apologised to a patient who suffered a serious adverse incident in Cavan General Hospital ’s maternity  unit. The incident did not involve the death of a baby. File photograph: Getty Images

The HSE has apologised to a patient who suffered a serious adverse incident in Cavan General Hospital ’s maternity unit. The incident did not involve the death of a baby. File photograph: Getty Images

 

A major review of the maternity unit of Cavan General Hospital is to begin on Wednesday following concerns over the deaths of four babies since 2012.

The Health Service Executive has commissioned four external investigations into the deaths.

Two of these have been completed, while another has been escalated and is awaiting the appointment of a review team.

At least two members of staff have been referred by the hospital to the Medical Council, The Irish Times understands. The council is currently investigating two other complaints brought by patients.

One member of staff has been on administrative leave since last September.

The hospital has been unable to find a replacement to fill in for this member of staff, leaving the remaining three consultants to share the work. This is about half the recommended level of staffing.

Serious adverse incident

Separately, the HSE has apologised to a patient who suffered a serious adverse incident in the unit. The incident did not involve the death of a baby.

Arising from the problems which have arisen at the hospital, the HSE has commissioned a quality, risk and patient safety assurance review to assess governance arrangements in Cavan.

The three-day exercise conducted by David Flory, a former senior executive of the National Health Service in Britain, will assess governance, care pathways, complaints, incidents and risk management, staff have been told.

Singled out

Cavan is one of three smaller maternity units which have been singled out for review by Mr Flory. A similar exercise is to be carried out later this month in Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe, where the deaths of up to 12 babies are being investigated.

The third unit to be reviewed is South Tipperary General Hospital in Clonmel.

Mr Flory was engaged by HSE director general Tony O’Brien to look at Irish maternity units in the wake of the Portlaoise hospital report, which was highly critical of governance and management of the midlands hospital.

The hospital says it is satisfied the standards of safety of the maternity service are high and compare well to other services in the State.

It says Cavan’s corrected perinatal mortality figures for 2011, 2012 and 2013 were 1.5, 3.1 and 3.1 per 1,000 births, compared with a national average of 4.1.