Department ‘not disputing’ Portlaoise report, says Varadkar

‘The process now ongoing is a process of checking the facts before it is published’

Minister for health Leo Varadkar. File photograph: Collins

Minister for health Leo Varadkar. File photograph: Collins

 

The Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has said to the best of his knowledge no-one in the Department of Health is disputing the draft Hiqa report into Portlaoise Hospital.

The draft report has led to a major dispute breaking out between the HSE, which operates the hospital, and the health service safety watchdog Hiqa.

The HSE has argued the draft report is unfair and inaccurate and has considered legal action to prevent publication of the report in its current form.

The draft report is also understood to contain criticism of the Department of Health. However speaking on Thursday Mr Varadkar said the document contained no criticism of him as minister.

He said the Hiqa document was a draft and drafts by their nature included inaccuracies.

“The process now ongoing is a process of checking the facts before it is published.”

He forecast that despite the row between the HSE and Hiqa, the report into Portlaoise would be published within the next couple of weeks.

He said steps were being taken immediately to strengthen the hospital.

The Minister said a memorandum of understanding had been signed on Thursday for the Coombe Women’s Hospital to begin taking over maternity services in Portlaoise.

He said this development acknowledged that maternity services in Portlaoise had not been “up to scratch” and everyone realised that.

Mr Varadkar said however that simply shutting down a smaller maternity centre and squeezing a further 200 births per year into another hospital was not a solution.