Hiqa urges Varadkar to support Portlaoise hospital proposals

Political commitment vital for improvements to health system safety, says Hiqa chief

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar appears before an Oireachtas commitee meeting on health and children.


Political commitment is vital to ensure the recommendations in the report on Portlaoise hospital are implemented and improvements made to the safety of the health system, according to the chief executive of the State’s health watchdog.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar should establish an oversight committee in his department to ensure implementation of the report’s recommendations, said the chief executive of the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa).

Phelim Quinn told the Oireachtas health committee it was imperative the recommendations made in his agency’s report on Portlaoise were fully implemented and that a clear timeline was set out, with named individuals taking responsibility.

He said the findings reflected the ongoing failure of the Health Service Executive to evaluate the services provided at Portlaoise against the volume of patients attending the hospital and the findings of previous investigations.

“This investigation concludes that Portlaoise hospital was allowed to struggle on despite a number of substantial governance and management issues in relation to the quality, and safety of services. Sufficient action was not taken by the HSE at a national, regional or local level to address these issues.”

Mr Quinn described the experiences outlined by patients and families during the investigation as disturbing and said they highlighted significant deficiencies in the delivery of patient-centred care.

National maternity strategy

Ineffective governance arrangements at all levels of the HSE resulted in the patient’s voice being ignored and valuable insights

to inform better care being lost. He said a national maternity strategy must be published as a matter of urgency. Pressed by TDs to say whether the facility was safe for expectant mothers, Mary Dunnion, acting director of regulation at the watchdog, said it was impossible to say so. “I don’t think anybody can say every hospital is safe, because risk is inherent in all clinical services,” she said.

Ms Dunnion said Hiqa consulted obstetrics experts about the Portlaoise hospital as part of its latest investigation, which led to a scathing report into care at the facility released last week.

It found a “majority” of expectant mothers were safe because they were experiencing normal pregnancies and were healthy. She added there were concerns for pregnant women who were considered “at risk” and who may need to be transferred to another hospital.

The intensive care unit at the Midland Regional Hospital was a “poor facility” and “not conducive” to modern day standards, Ms Dunnion added.

Renua TD Lucinda Creighton said based on previous form it was hard to see the report being implemented.