Mallow hospital inquiry announced


There may be a serious risk to the health and welfare of some patients undergoing certain treatments at Mallow General Hospital, the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) said today.

Hiqa this morning announced the terms of reference for an investigation into the quality and safety of services at the hospital. The inquiry, being established under Section 9 of the Health Act, 2007, follows complaints from patients.

The relevant section of the Act provides for the authority to undertake an investigation if there is a possible health risk to patients receiving care at a hospital.

Following a similar investigation into the safety of services at Ennis Hospital in April 2009, the authority issued national recommendations aimed at ensuring services would be reviewed in similar-sized hospitals. The recommendations were intended to implement changes to minimise or eliminate risks associated with small hospitals treating acutely ill patients.

It said it had "not received adequate assurance" from the HSE that these recommendations have been considered and implemented at the 76-bed Mallow hospital.

“Whilst the authority has been informed there are long-term plans in place to change the role of the hospital, the authority believes there may be a serious risk to the health and welfare of some patients undergoing certain treatments in the hospital,” the authority said.

Hiqa said it was of concern that there are hospitals that are continuing to provide care to acutely ill patients where the volume of patients is too low or the depth of clinical staffing cover is insufficient for this to be done reliably and safely.

"With this in mind, the authority has sought assurances from the HSE as to how the national recommendations from the Ennis report have been implemented. The authority is not sufficiently assured by the response,” it said.

"It is in this context that the authority has identified specific concerns about aspects of the care provided at Mallow General Hospital following receipt of information about the types of patients being treated in that hospital.

“This has raised concerns about potential risks to the health and welfare of persons receiving certain types of care at Mallow General Hospital centred on the provision of major surgery, the emergency department and critical care services".

Hiqa's investigation into the safety of services at Mallow will look in particular at emergency services including acute medicine, surgical services and critical care and anaesthetic services. The authority "will assess whether the current arrangements for management and provision" of these clinical services at the hospital is safe.

The board of Hiqa met last week to consider the situation at the hospital and decided to begin a formal investigation. The findings of this investigation will be published in due course.

In a statement this afternoon, the HSE said it had received the terms of reference for the Hiqa investigation into Mallow hospital and that it would co-operate fully with that investigation.

HSE South management said the hospital would continue to be an integral part of its plan for delivering acute services in Cork and Kerry.

Prof Richard Greene, clinical director, Cork University Hospital Group, HSE South, said: "The HSE will provide every assistance to Hiqa during the course of their investigation. Patient care and safety is a priority for all the staff in MGH and they are committed to ensuring a safe and appropriate service for patients.

"This investigation will further provide the opportunity to ensure continued safety and quality of service for patients in the area," he added.

The HSE said it "actively manages and assesses the quality and safety of services in Mallow General Hospital on a continual basis", and that it is communicating with Hiqa. The HSE said a number of service changes have been put in place in the interest of best practice in the hospital.

Last year, Hiqa's report into Ennis Hospital, initiated after a number of cancer misdiagnoses, found it was unsafe to provide acute surgery, intensive care, round-the-clock emergency care, paediatric and maternity care at the 88-bed Co Clare hospital.

Since then, 24-hour emergency services have been removed from the hospital.