HSE satisfied current maternity services at Portlaoise ‘very safe’

Tony O’Brien apologises to families and commits to implementing recommendations

HSE director general Tony O’Brien: said the executive “accepts” and was committed to implementing all eight recommendations made in a highly critical Hiqa report.  Photograph: David Sleator.

HSE director general Tony O’Brien: said the executive “accepts” and was committed to implementing all eight recommendations made in a highly critical Hiqa report. Photograph: David Sleator.

 

The Health Service Executive has said it is satisfied that current maternity services at Portlaoise hospital are “very safe”.

HSE director general Tony O’Brien said the executive “accepts” and is committed to implementing all eight recommendations made in a highly critical Health Information and Quality Authority report into patient safety at the hospital.

The report, which followed the deaths of five babies at the Midland Regional Hospital in Portlaoise, found that HSE managers at a local, regional and national level were aware of patient safety risks at the hospital but failed to act.

Asked whether individuals would be held accountable for failings, Mr O’Brien said the HSE would examine the report and take action as appropriate.

He added that HSE had “no agenda to downgrade Portlaoise hospital”.

 

Not resigning

Mr O’Brien apologised to the affected families. He said he would not be stepping down on foot of the findings.

 

He said that, following an earlier investigation by the chief medical officer “effective, swift and decisive” action had been taken.

Mr O’Brien said it was clear from the report that there had been failures.

However, while some of these could not be attributed to financial constraints, it would be “wrong to overlook the very challenging, unique, probably unprecedented circumstances” caused by the financial downturn in 2008.

“In a situation where some of the discussion is about why the HSE didn’t provide additional resources to Portlaoise, part of that answer at that time . . . is that they didn’t have the resources to provide”.

Dr Susan O’Reilly, chief executive of the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group, said as things stood she was “satisfied that maternity services at the hospital are safe”.

She said a number of appointments had taken place at the hospital including that of director of midwifery, 16 permanent midwifery posts and the replacement of 20 agency nursing posts by permanent staff, while other positions had either been filled already or were in the process of being appointed.

* Separately Dr O’Reilly said 28 clinical chart reviews were being carried out into complaints regarding maternity services in hospitals including Portlaoise, some of which related to deaths, by senior obstetrician Dr Peter Boylan and a team of six other obstetricians. The reviews were instigated after families contacted a helpline set up in the wake of a programme on baby deaths at Portlaoise hospital by RTÉ last year. A further two complaints which have undergone a preliminary review will also be reviewed by Dr Boylan.

* This article was edited on Sunday, May 10th, 2015, to correct an error