“We miss our mum so much every day.”
This was the heart-breaking message from four Co Sligo children asked their father to deliver to Minister for Health Leo Varadkar.
Seán Rowlette and Michael Kivlehan had a "productive" two-hour meeting with Mr Varadkar where they sought assurances about the safety of maternity services. Both men lost their wives following childbirth at Sligo Regional Hospital and said they wanted to ensure that no other family endured the same pain.
Mr Rowlette from Dromore West, Co Sligo brought the same message in a hand-written note from his four children.
Addressing their letter to Minister Leo Varadkar, Leanne (9) Abbie (7) Joseph (4) and sally (2) wrote: “We miss our mum so much every day. Can you please make sure this can never happen to any other mum again.
“And to make our hospitals safe”.
Mr Rowlette’s wife Sally (36) died in the Sligo hospital in February 2013, the day after her fourth child was born there.
Dhara Kivlehan (28) from Dromahair, Co Leitrim died in a Belfast hospital in September 2010, nine days after her son Dior was born in Sligo hospital. The inquest into her death was delayed for four years.
Speaking after the meeting the men said they were pleased with a number of assurances given by the Minister.
Mr Varadkar who described the meeting as “very useful” said afterwards that a new maternity strategy was being developed in 2015 which “will map maternity services for the next few decades”.
“It was a very good meeting. He listened to everything we had to say,” said Mr Rowlette.
The men's solicitor Roger Murray from Callan Tansey said they were particularly pleased to get an undertaking from the Minister about the availability of ICU beds in specialist hospitals in the case of emergencies. At the inquest into Dhara Kivlehan's death it emerged that there was a delay in transferring her from Sligo because of the non-availability of such beds.
“The Minister was also very clear on doctors’ duty of candour to relatives,” said Mr Murray. Both Mr Rowlette and Mr Kivlehan had criticised the attitude of some clinical staff to them in Sligo.
Mr Murray said the Minister had acknowledged the importance of making relevant doctors appear at inquests .
Mr Rowlette said Mr Varadkar had also addressed the need to have automatic inquests if a woman dies in child birth. “We had to fight to ensure there was an inquest,” he pointed out.
He said that before he left his home at 7.30am, his children had asked him where he was going. When he told them, they sat down and wrote a letter to Mr Varadkar. “The Minister was sympathetic. I showed him First Holy Communion photos taken at Sally’s grave.”
In a statement, the Minister said that while maternity services in Ireland were on a par with the rest of the western world, there had been a number of serious cases of medical misadventure in recent years, resulting in maternal and neonatal deaths “that might have been avoided”.
He added: “This gives me concern as Minister for Health.”