Maternity service at Portlaoise hospital ‘not safe’

Report on deaths of infants at Midland Regional Hospital says families treated ‘appallingly’

The maternity service at the Midland Regional Hospital in Portlaoise cannot be regarded as safe and sustainable within its current governance arrangements, a major Department of Health report has found.

The HSE has now put in place a transition team that is now in control of maternity services at the unit.

The report was drawn up by the chief medical officer of the Department of Health Dr Tony Holohan on foot of a recent RTÉ documentary into the deaths of a number of infants.

The report concluded that families and patients were treated in a poor and at times appalling manner, with limited respect, kindness, courtesy and consideration.


It recommended that the hospital should apologise unreservedly to patients concerned.

Dr Holohan’s report said the maternity service at Portlaoise “lacks many of the important criteria required to deliver on a stand- alone basis a safe and sustainable maternity service”.

“Poor outcomes that could likely have been prevented were identified and known by the hospital but not adequately and satisfactorily acted upon.”

It also said information that should have been given to families was withheld for no justifiable reason.

It recommended that other small maternity services should be incorporated into managed clinical networks within relevant hospital groups.

Families whose babies died in the maternity unit at the hospital today welcomed the recommendations in the report.

However, the father of one of four babies whose deaths were at the centre of an RTE Prime Time programme which aired last month said it was a “bittersweet day” for the family:

“When all is said and done we’ll visit a grave in the morning; no matter what we did we’re not getting Mark back tomorrow,” the baby’s father, also named Mark Molloy said following the launch of the report and recommendations today.

“While you can get some comfort from knowing that other babies will go home safely as a result of this, it’s still a sad day for us”.

Minister for Health James Reilly said it was clear that families at Portlaoise Hospital maternity service were not treated with an acceptable level of care, compassion and respect.

Earlier this month, the Minister said he would “bring all powers to bear” to change the way people are being treated in the State’s health system.

Dr Reilly announced plans to have the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) review the circumstances surrounding the deaths of four babies at the Midlands Regional Hospital in Portlaoise over a six-year period.

He said he held separate two- hour meetings with three of the affected families, who told him they felt “dehumanised” by the way they had been treated.

“It’s very clear to me that there were an awful lot of issues raised by the families which they found deeply upsetting – sometimes dehumanising – and I really believe there is no room for that in a modern health service that’s supposed to be patient-centred.”

He rejected claims that staffing and resource issues were contributory factors in the deaths.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent