HSE facing High Court actions linked to Portiuncula failings

Family who lost two daughters at the hospital brought the case due to delay in report

The HSE is facing at least five different High Court actions from families whose babies died or were injured at birth at Portiuncula University Hospital.

On Thursday a report was published outlining a series of serious failings at the hospital in Ballinasloe, Co Galway, which led to the deaths of three babies and the serious injury of three more.

The report, which had been delayed for three years, examined 18 maternity cases and found serious failings in half including a lack of staffing, poor training and improper use of drugs.

Dr Pat Nash of Saolta, the hospital's parent group, said on Thursday he didn't know how many cases the HSE or the hospital was facing as a result of the failings. On Friday the HSE directed queries on the matter to the State Claims Agency. The agency has yet to respond.


According to High Court records, two families have lodged a total of four cases against the HSE in relation to the deaths of their children.

Warren and Lorraine Reilly, whose daughters Asha and Amber died in the hospital in 2008 and 2010, have filed papers in two separate cases against the executive.

Asha was delivered stillborn in 2008 after Ms Reilly suffered a massive placental abruption.

‘High risk’

In 2010, Ms Reilly was admitted to the hospital as a "high risk" case. Amber was delivered by Caesarean section with the umbilical cord tied around her neck. She was transferred to the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin and died six days later.

Cathal Farrell, who along with his wife, Denise, lost their daughter Sadhbh two days after she was born, has also lodged two cases against the HSE in relation to failures in maternity care.

Prior to Sadhbh’s birth there was a delay is deeming Ms Farrell to be in labour despite complaints of pain and occasional contractions.

There was no constant monitoring of her condition as a result. It was later established Ms Farrell suffered a ruptured uterus which caused the death of the baby.

Another family, whose child suffered lifelong disability as a result of maternity care failures at Portiuncula, has also lodged High Court papers. The review published on Thursday found the baby suffered injury because of failures to recognise foetal distress and a failure to intervene earlier with a Caesarean section.

The mother’s solicitor, Michael Boylan, confirmed a case against the HSE was pending but that he hoped the family would not have to go through a full hearing.

“I’m sincerely hoping on foot of this report that liability will be admitted and the family won’t be put through any more stress.”


Warren Reilly also told The Irish Times he hoped the case would be settled before a trial.

He said he and his wife never intended taking a legal action because they thought the review, which started in January 2015, “would give the answers we were looking for.

“But it came to a point where the five-month deadline passed and it was barely started,” he said.

“Some time after, we got so frustrated with the entire process being so slow and tedious and not getting any answers that we employed a solicitor who specialises in medical negligence. They’ve been supporting us to find out as much as we can over the last while.”

He said they had filed a civil action against the HSE and were waiting on a response from the executive. “These things are very slow.”

Mr Reilly said he was aware of other families who were also considering legal recourse.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times