Postmortem ordered following death of baby in Portlaoise

Incident comes weeks after report into deaths of four babies at hospital

News of the latest death comes days after the  publication of a report by Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer with the  Department of Health into perinatal deaths at the HSE Midland Regional Hospital. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

News of the latest death comes days after the publication of a report by Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer with the Department of Health into perinatal deaths at the HSE Midland Regional Hospital. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Tue, Mar 11, 2014, 08:17

The death has occurred of another baby at the Midland Regional Hospital in Portlaoise, which is currently under scrutiny by the State’s health watchdog following the deaths of four babies at the hospital between 2007 and 2012.

The latest death occurred on Saturday and the HSE has confirmed this latest “perinatal death” and extended its sympathy to the infant’s family. The term perinatal refers to the time – usually a number of weeks – immediately before and after birth.

The HSE, in its statement released last night, also confirmed a post mortem is in progress.

“The HSE can confirm that a perinatal death took place at Portlaoise Hospital on Saturday March 8th last,” said the statement. “The coroner has requested that a post-mortem examination take place and this is now in progress. The HSE offers its condolences to the family at this tragic time.”

A recent report by Department of Health chief medical officer Tony Holohan on the deaths between 2007 and 2012 found maternity services at the hospital could not be regarded as safe under their current governance arrangements.

It also stated that families and patients had been treated in a poor and, at times, appalling manner, with limited respect, kindness, courtesy and consideration.

The death comes less than two weeks after the appointment of an interim management team to maternity services at the hospital.

As the new management was unveiled on February 28th, the clinical director of Portlaoise Hospital Dr John Connaughton apologised unreservedly for failings in maternity services at the hospital.

Sheila O’Connor, the national coordinator of patient advocacy group Patient Focus, last night said she was still attempting to ascertain the facts of the case. “We don’t know yet what the situation is in relation to this,” she said. “It’s very worrying that this happened but we hope nothing untoward occurred.”

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) last week confirmed the board of the authority had agreed to a request from Minister for Health Dr James Reilly to undertake an independent investigation into the services provided by Portlaoise hospital.

“This investigation will build on the findings made by the chief medical officer in his recently completed review,” said HIQA in a statement. “The investigation will include an assessment of the patient safety culture at Portlaoise.

“The investigation will seek to establish further facts on the safety and quality of services at the hospital. If risks to patients are identified, recommendations will be made to address them.”

HIQA director of regulation Phelim Quinn said the investigation team will “review the arrangements for providing safe, quality clinical care which will include how the hospital focuses on the needs of patients, the management and leadership at the hospital.

“The investigation team will also review the systems and processes that support safety and quality and the communication between staff and patients, particularly when patient safety incidents occur and when complaints are made.

“As part of the investigation, the Authority’s Investigation Team will also take into account the experiences of patients and their families,” he added.

The terms of reference and membership of the investigation team are currently being finalised and will be published when concluded. The investigation report and its recommendations will be published following the completion of the investigation.