Families of babies who died ‘should be told truth’ by HSE

Epidemiology Centre director says deaths in Portlaoise ‘could possibly have been avoided’

Parents of babies who died during or shortly after birth in the Midland Regional Hospital, Portlaoise should be told the truth by the Health Service Executive, the director of the National Epidemiology Centre has said.

Professor Richard Greene was put forward by the HSE to speak to RTÉ Radio this morning in response to yesterday's Prime Time programme examining the deaths of babies from four families over a six-year period.

Prof Greene said he was most “upset” by the fact that parents had not been told their babies deaths were being investigated by the HSE and why they had died.

“I do believe they should be told,” he said. “Patients should always be told if we believe there’s something we did wrong.”


It was revealed more than 30 midwives wrote to Government Ministers in 2006 with serious concerns before any deaths occurred.

“Some of these deaths could possibly have been avoided,” Prof Greene said.

The programme said a report into the death of "baby Nathan" in the maternity unit in 2008 found two care delivery problems: a failure to recognise and act on CTG tracings, which are readings of babies' heart rate and mothers' contractions, resulting in the baby not being delivered in an appropriate time; and inappropriate use of the drug Syntocinon, a drug that increases the rate of contractions.

Parents of babies who died “in very similar circumstances” were also interviewed, and reviews of these cases also found failings in the care provided.

The review’s recommendations included monitoring CTG readings, introducing guidelines around the use of the drug Syntocinon and foetal blood sampling, only introduced at the hospital three weeks ago.

Prof Greene said the “delay was unacceptable” for implementing review recommendations.

“There’s no question there was an unnecessary delay in achieving this,” he said.

However, Prof Greene said very specific training and qualifications are needed to do the tests, and that had “taken time”.

Prof Green said the review findings should be used to improve outcomes for future babies. “Unfortunately, we will never reduce this to zero,” he said.

Sheila O’Connor from Patient Focus, a patient advocacy organisation, said as a direct result of the revelations they had received six calls in relation to infant deaths yesterday. “This is worrying,” she said.

Ms O’Connor said hospital management needed to reassure local people who use the hospital it is now safe.

“If I had my daughter having a baby in that hospital in the very near future, I’d be seriously thinking of going elsewhere,” she said.

Minister for Health James Reilly has asked for a report on the matter.


A phone line has been set up at the hospital to deal with patients’ concerns arising from the Prime Time programme.

In a statement this morning the HSE said: “The Midland Regional Hospital at Portlaoise will be available to take calls from any members of the public concerned following the airing of the Special Report from the RTÉ Investigations Unit.”

Details from each call will be documented and if requested a clinician will review the medical notes and a return call will be made at the earliest opportunity, the HSE said.

“The voicemail is also being monitored. It is important that the callers leave their name and number and the hospital will get back to them as soon as possible,” the HSE added.

The phones will operate from 9 am to 5pm from today. The contact number is 057 8696076.