The Health Service Executive (HSE) and University Maternity Hospital Limerick have apologised in the High Court to a woman who gave birth to a stillborn baby at the hospital 16 years ago.
The apology was read as Rebecca Collins, mother of Hannah Collins, who was delivered at the hospital a few days after Christmas in 2007, settled an action against the HSE.
Liam Reidy SC, for the Collins family, instructed by HOMS Assist solicitors, told the court that the case could be struck out. Ms Collins, Hannah’s father, Tom Collins and their four young daughters were present.
In a letter of apology, the hospital and the HSE said they would like “to sincerely apologise” to Ms Collins and her family “for the events that occurred on December 28th, 2007, related to the stillbirth of your baby girl, Hannah”.
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“The Maternity Hospital and the HSE acknowledge that the outcome on December 28th, 2007, was devastating for your family and has had a profound and lasting effect on you,” stated the letter, signed by Noreen Spillane, chief operations officer of the UL Hospitals Group.
“The willingness of your family to share your experience was invaluable in allowing the hospital to learn from your experience and in helping to make recommendations to improve the systems and processes in place at the hospital related to the delivery of maternity services.”
‘Matter of urgency’
It concluded by saying that the hospital and the HSE “are committed to ensuring that the recommendations identified by the hospital investigation report are implemented as a matter of urgency”.
Ms Collins (40), from Killeanaugh, Co Clare, had sued the HSE over her care at University Maternity Hospital, Limerick in 2007. Liability was admitted in the case. An internal inquiry was later held at the hospital into the stillbirth, which centred on the monitoring of the baby’s heartbeat before delivery.
In the proceedings, it was claimed that following the internal inquiry into the stillbirth it was discovered that there was a failure to identify and appropriately manage a non-reassuring heart monitoring result that was carried out on December 27th in the ante natal ward.
It was also claimed that Ms Collins was not made aware of this failure on the part of the hospital to properly identify and appropriately manage a non-reassuring CTG trace on her unborn baby until May 2017. When Hannah was delivered stillborn on December 28th, 2007 it was noted that there was a tight knot in the umbilical cord.
Outside the Four Courts, solicitor Rachel O’Shaughnessy read a statement on behalf of the family saying Hannah will always be in their hearts and thoughts.
‘Always somebody missing’
“Undoubtedly Christmas is particularly difficult as it brings another anniversary of her passing; there’s always somebody missing,” they said. “Hannah’s death has left a wound that will never heal; a life that has gone forever; laughter that will never be heard; a sister that was never known and a daughter that will be forever loved and missed.”
“Rebecca and Tom were left utterly heartbroken and would live for the next 15 years with unanswered questions. Why and how did it happen could it have been prevented; could their daughter have been saved?”
Ms Collins, the statement added, saw a RTÉ Prime Time programme in January 2015 which referred to foetal heart monitoring which prompted her to contact the hospital. She said that while an inquiry into the case answered many questions, it only occurred after Ms Collins fought for answers.
The Collins family said they hoped by raising awareness others will be encouraged “keep asking the difficult questions until they are answered”.
“This is yet another tragic case which brings home the very real need for the urgent enactment of the Patient Safety Bill which would make open disclosure for patient safety incidents mandatory as soon as reasonably practicable.”