Number of adverse birth incidents reported increased last year

‘Prime Time’ figures show increase in incidents reported by Limerick and Portlaoise units

There was a major spike in the number of adverse events reported in the maternity units of two hospital groups last year.

The number of birth specific adverse incidents reported by the maternity units of hospitals in Limerick and Portlaoise together increased by 80 per cent last year, according to figures revealed by RTÉ's Prime Time programme.

The number of adverse incidents related to clinical procedures in those units increased by 254 per cent.

The figures for the hospital group that includes the maternity units in Wexford, Kilkenny and Mullingar also showed a significant increases, although these are from a lower base.


The Master of the Rotunda Hospital Dr Sam Coulter-Smith told the programme that without knowing what is behind them, the figures “on the surface they do appear to be high” and the fact that hospitals responsible for this number of births that are responsible this level of adverse incidents is “concerning”.

They clearly need to be looked into further, he said.

According to the HSE, there was an increase in the reported incidents in Portlaoise Hospital because of an improved local IT system and an increased awareness of the requirement for all staff to report incidents.

They also said figures were inflated because of a backlog of old reported were uploaded last year.

However, according to RTÉ it is understood incidents listed under legacy data were not included in Prime Time's figures.

These latest figures, obtained by Prime Time under Freedom of Information, include every adverse incident reported in all the maternity units outside of Dublin.

They are drawn from the State Claims Agency’s National Incident Management System, which collates all reports of adverse incidents in the acute hospital system.

The HSE said in a statement: “Increased reporting by hospitals is an indication of engaged and proactive patient safety programs, which ultimately promotes positive patient safety outcomes. The greater the reporting, the better results for patients.”

HIQA’s highly critical report on the safety, quality and standards of services at Portlaoise hospital was published last week.

The HIQA inquiry followed an RTÉ Investigations Unit report last year into the deaths of five babies at the hospital.