HSE to hold review into death of fifth baby in Portlaoise hospital

Fatality linked to a failure by staff to recognise or act on foetal distress

An independent review into the death of a fifth baby at the Midlands Regional Hospital in Portlaoise will start shortly, with “appropriate” input from her parents, the HSE has said.

As in four earlier cases in recent years, the death of baby Mary-Kate last May has been linked to a failure by hospital staff to recognise or act on foetal distress, as monitored using a CTG machine.

The circumstances leading to her death were outlined by her parents, Amy Delahunt and Ollie Kelly of Borrisoleigh, Co Tipperary, on RTÉ's Prime Time earlier this week.

The HSE said today its Dublin mid-Leinster division had told Mary-Kate’s family directly that in its view, the review process by the hospital into her death had “significant shortcomings” and they should have been consulted as part of this process.


“The very pertinent questions they have in relation to what happened can only be answered in the context of an independent review of the case.”

Last month, a Department of Health report into the deaths of four infants between 2007 and 2012 found maternity services at the hospital could not be regarded as safe and sustainable under current governance arrangements.

The author, the department's chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan, said at the time an investigation was ongoing into a further perinatal death at Portlaoise. This was a reference to the death of baby Mary-Kate.

Since the publication of his report, a further death has occurred at the maternity unit of the hospital. The HSE said today a review of this incident was currently under way.

It said that since Dr Holohan published his report, new management arrangements have been put in place, including the appointment of a new general manager for maternity services and a director of midwifery.

David Walsh, HSE regional director of performance and integration, encouraged any member of the public with concerns or complaints in relation to the treatment they received at the maternity unit to make contact with the hospital. "Every effort will be made to ensure that their concerns are dealt with appropriately," he said. "The HSE and Portlaoise hospital accept that in the past there were significant shortcomings in relation to the level and quality of care afforded to patients and in substandard communication with families".

Ms Delahunt attended the maternity unit in Portlaoise last May when 34 weeks pregnant, after noticing her baby was not as active as normal. The baby was monitored on a CTG machine for an hour and 20 minutes. She was then discharged.

The following morning, at a routine scan at St Munchin’s hospital in Limerick, it was established that the baby had died. Mary-Kate was delivered one week later.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times