HSE apologises over deaths of babies in Portlaoise

Health body admits ‘unacceptable delays in completing reports, communicating with families and acting on recommendations’

Minister for Health Dr James Reilly has asked for a report to be drawn up on the matter and said he would take ‘whatever actions need to be taken to further make sure that this doesn’t happen again’.

Minister for Health Dr James Reilly has asked for a report to be drawn up on the matter and said he would take ‘whatever actions need to be taken to further make sure that this doesn’t happen again’.

 

The Health Service Executive has apologised “unequivocally” to four families whose babies died during or shortly after birth in the Midland Regional Hospital, Portlaoise.

A review of the maternity unit in the Portlaoise hospital is underway and is being carried out by the chief medical officer in the Department of Health Dr Tony Holohan.

The apology comes ahead of the airing tonight of an RTÉ Prime Time programme looking at the deaths of the babies over a six-year-period.

The programme makers say that a report into the death of a baby at the maternity unit in 2008 found there were a number of failings in the care provided by the hospital to both the mother and baby.

“These included a failure to recognise when the baby was in distress during labour and the inappropriate use of a drug used to increase the rate of contractions. A number of recommendations were made in the report to improve patient safety,” RTÉ said in a statement ahead of the programme by the RTÉ Investigations Unit which will air on tonight’s Prime Time.

However, the programme makers say that other babies subsequently died in “very similar circumstances” and that the review of these cases also found failings in the care provided.

“The programme finds the hospital and HSE had failed to implement the previous recommendations in full, which may have saved these babies lives,” the RTÉ statement said, adding that neither the hospital nor the HSE informed the bereaved families that an investigation had taken place in their case or that a report had been produced.

It said that in one case a mother only learned of the investigation and report in to her baby’s death five years after his death.

In a statement the HSE said both it and and the hospital “accept that there were serious shortcomings in these cases”.

“There were unacceptable delays in completing reports, communicating with families, and in acting on recommendations. The HSE and the hospital apologises unequivocally to the families for these failings,” the statement read.

It said the HSE’s national director of Acute Hospitals, Ian Carter, will arrange to meet with the families to discuss any concerns they have relating to the care they received or how they were treated.

However, it said perinatal mortality rates at the hospital were in line with maternity services nationally.

Patient advocacy organisation, Patient Focus, which is working with a number of the affected women and families said today it was “alarming that the recommendations of several reviews seem to have been ignored at the unit, appearing to lead to the unnecessary deaths of babies”.

It called for the HSE to establish a wide ranging independent investigation into the maternity care provided at the unit going back 10 years.

Health Minister Dr James Reilly said he had asked for a report to be drawn up on the matter and he would take “whatever actions need to be taken”.