HSE considering expansion of Portiuncula hospital inquiry

Families who experienced problem deliveries want their cases included in review

The Health Service Executive (HSE) is considering whether to extend the terms of reference of an inquiry into problem deliveries of babies at Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe.

Last month, it emerged that seven births at the Co Galway hospital, two of which resulted in death and five involving oxygen deprivation, were being investigated. Several families who were not among the original seven cases are now seeking to have their births included in the inquiry. Some 40 people contacted a helpline set up in relation to the investigation. The terms of reference and membership of the review team should be finalised in the next week.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar said yesterday it was important that those carrying out the review were not from the Saolta University Healthcare Group, which runs Portiuncula, and that most of them were independent of the HSE.

Among those seeking to have their case included are Warren and Lorraine Reilly, who lost two babies in less than three years following care at the hospital. After their daughter Asha died at 30 weeks' gestation in 2008, a second girl, Amber, who was full term, was delivered by Caesarean section in 2010. Having suffered oxygen deprivation, she was transferred to a Dublin maternity hospital, but died days later.


Midwife’s reservations

During the inquest into Amber’s death in 2011, it emerged that a midwife assisting during the birth had expressed reservation about the treatment Ms Reilly was receiving.

Dublin city coroner Dr Brian Farrell wrote to the hospital in June 2011 recommending a review of the management of Ms Reilly's labour. The hospital responded a month later, saying a review would be undertaken by the consultant on call and the director of nursing and midwifery.

Mr Reilly said yesterday that the couple were never asked to participate in such an investigation, had not been given a copy of any review, and had not been told if it was ever carried out.

A spokesman for Saolta declined to comment on the review, on the basis that it cannot discuss individual cases. “The Saolta group and Portiuncula Hospital are aware of the issues Mr Reilly has raised. The draft terms of reference are currently being finalised. The issues raised by him will be taken into consideration.”

Separately, the HSE has received 170 complaints about maternity services across the State. A spokesman said the complaints included a wide range of issues, some minor, some of a more serious nature.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times