Over 250 adverse findings in report on Portlaoise hospital

Criticism of medical staff in care of 83 women but HSE challenges report

HSE director general Tony O’Brien: described the women’s accounts as “unverified” and said the draft Hiqa report lacks accuracy and balance. Photograph: Alan Betson

HSE director general Tony O’Brien: described the women’s accounts as “unverified” and said the draft Hiqa report lacks accuracy and balance. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

A controversial draft report into baby deaths at a midlands hospital makes more than 250 “adverse findings or inferences” affecting senior figures in the Health Service Executive, the Department of Health and the State Claims Agency.

It includes serious findings against medical staff involved in the care of 83 women at Midland Regional Hospital in Portlaoise who provided information to the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa), the HSE has claimed in correspondence seen by The Irish Times.

At least six separate findings imply a “reckless endangerment” of patients, according to HSE director general Tony O’Brien.

Accuracy and balance

Mr O’Brien, in a series of strongly worded letters to the authority, describes the women’s accounts as “unverified” and claims the draft report lacks accuracy and balance.

The dispute between the two State agencies, revealed in The Irish Times yesterday, has prompted Opposition calls for the immediate publication of the report.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar said he expected the HSE and Hiqa to sort out their differences without resorting to the law but added it would be “totally inappropriate and irresponsible” to publish a report in draft form.

The document places much of the blame for Portlaoise’s problems on the HSE by citing passivity among HSE managers, constant changes in corporate structures and a lack of clear reporting roles as contributory factors.

However, Mr O’Brien accuses it of a “lack of accuracy, context, specificity and balance” and says it includes superfluous comments which are likely to cause needless distress.

According to Mr O’Brien, it is not within the statutory functions of the authority to make findings which would attribute blame, guilt or liability to anyone employed by the HSE.

He says the HSE accepts there were “shortcomings” at the hospital but “nowhere in the report is there any evidence of a recognition of the extreme financial restrictions that encumbered and obstructed the HSE’s ability to implement improvements”.

In a letter to Hiqa chief executive Phelim Quinn on March 13th, Mr O’Brien says he is left with no option but to take “an extraordinary step” and retain counsel to bring High Court proceedings to stop the authority publishing the report until affected parties have been afforded their rights to fair procedures.

Following a meeting between HSE and department officials last Thursday, Hiqa agreed to provide the HSE with more information on the findings in the draft report and the HSE withdrew the immediate threat of legal action. This will delay publication until next month at the earliest.