Leo Varadkar says Portlaoise ‘allowed to drift for decades’

Minister says report would not have been possible without ‘courage and fortitude’ of parents and patients

 Leo Varadkar said a number of measures had been taken ahead of the publication of the report, including the appointment of a new manager and a director of midwifery at Portlaoise, while the maternity unit is being transferred to the governance of the Coombe hospital. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh/The irish Times

Leo Varadkar said a number of measures had been taken ahead of the publication of the report, including the appointment of a new manager and a director of midwifery at Portlaoise, while the maternity unit is being transferred to the governance of the Coombe hospital. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh/The irish Times

 

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has said Portlaoise hospital was “allowed to drift for decades” without clear direction or support. He has accepted the Health Information and Quality Authority report in full and says his department will now implement key recommendations. “I expect the HSE to do the same,” he said.

“It’s clear to me that, on occasion, patient safety and quality came second to other interests: institutional, staff, corporate and political. This has to change, not just in Portlaoise but nationwide. It would be foolhardy to assume that the problems in Portlaoise were unique to that location. That is why a nationwide and systemic response is warranted.”

Mr Varadkar said a number of measures had been taken ahead of the publication of the report, including the appointment of a new manager and a director of midwifery, while the maternity unit is being transferred to the governance of the Coombe hospital. He acknowledged the report would not have been possible without the “courage and fortitude” of the parents and patients involved.

“It is also my view that we will need to enhance how we deal with complaints,” he said. “The report identifies the need to immediately address the local clinical and corporate governance deficiencies in the maternity and general acute services in Portlaoise hospital and to publish an action plan to address these issues.”

Dr Hilary Dunne of the Irish Society for Quality and Safety in Healthcare said: “It is clear that the HSE does not value the views of patients. The report clearly highlights the lack of and poor communication experienced by parents.”

The society welcomed the recommendation for the establishment of an independent patient advocacy service which, it said, should be a matter of urgency.

Lyndy Cantillon, a solicitor working in the area of medical negligence, said it was positive that the report “does not pull its punches”.