Portlaoise health staff face disciplinary inquiry

Family rejects HSE apology over infant deaths in maternity unit

 MInister for Health Dr James Reilly is hugged by Natasha Molyneaux, mother of Nathan, following the Department of Health press conference on the Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise yesterday. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

MInister for Health Dr James Reilly is hugged by Natasha Molyneaux, mother of Nathan, following the Department of Health press conference on the Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise yesterday. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Sat, Mar 1, 2014, 01:00

A number of healthcare professionals at the Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise are facing disciplinary investigations by their regulatory bodies arising from failures in the maternity unit, Minister for Health James Reilly has said.

Speaking after the publication of a damning report into the deaths of four infants in the unit between 2007 and 2012 and the “appalling” treatment of their families, the Minister said it was up to the HSE to determine if any action would be taken against management at the hospital.

Dr Reilly said he was shocked by the events at Portlaoise and pledged the recommendations of the report drawn up by the chief medical officer of the Department of Health, Dr Tony Holohan, would be implemented.

Deaths of four infants
The report was ordered in January when an RTÉ Prime Time programme highlighted the deaths of the four infants.

Dr Holohan revealed yesterday that there is an investigation currently under way into a further perinatal death at the hospital in addition to the four covered by the report.

Dr Reilly said he wanted to apologise to the four families “for the failure of the health service in failing you and failing your babies”.

The report represented a “watershed moment”for the health service, he said. “These babies will not have died in vain and many more people into the future can feel safe “.

The clinical director of Portlaoise hospital, Dr John Connaughton, also apologised unreservedly for the failures in maternity services at the hospital.

Dr Holohan’s report found the maternity service at Portlaoise “ cannot be regarded as safe and sustainable within its current governance arrangements”. His report concluded that families and patients were treated in a poor and at times appalling manner, with limited respect, kindness, courtesy and consideration.

Maternity service
The maternity service at Portlaoise “ lacks many of the important criteria required to deliver on a standalone basis a safe and sustainable maternity service”, he was concerned that there could be similar problems in other smaller maternity units, Dr Reilly said he was concerned that recommendations on best practice which were drawn up on foot of previous investigations into services around the country were not being implemented as they should.

The HSE yesterday put in place a transition team to run maternity services at Portlaoise.

Dr Reilly said this team, comprising individuals with appropriate clinical and managerial expertise, would oversee the planning and execution of the orderly integration of the unit within a managed clinical network under the auspices of the Coombe hospital in Dublin.

The families whose babies died yesterday welcomed the report but one family criticised the HSE apology. Shauna Keyes, whose baby Joshua Keyes-Cornally died in 2009, said that she did not accept the apology, saying that once again she had received a “forced apology” which she described as scripted and impersonal.