Survivors of maternity loss at Portlaoise hospital attend service
Minister rejects claim that report on hospital services overhaul is ‘gathering dust’
A man reads messages on a tree of remembrance at the service of remembrance in Ss Peter and Paul’s Church in Portlaoise. Photograph: James Flynn/APX
About 80 people attended an ecumenical service in Portlaoise on Sunday for those who had suffered a maternity loss at Midlands Regional Hospital.
Attendees at Ss Peter and Paul’s Church, close to the hospital, included Róisín Molloy who, with her husband, Mark, fought a difficult battle with the Health Service Executive to reveal the exact circumstances that led to the death of their baby son, also named Mark, in 2012.
“Just because it says hospital over the door, that doesn’t mean it’s a safe service,” said Ms Molloy.
“The HSE have made their own internal assessments of what is best for Portlaoise hospital. At the moment it doesn’t have the footfall, it’s not a safe service.”
She was speaking as Minister for Health Simon Harris rejected suggestions that a report on overhauling services at the hospital was “gathering dust” in his department.
“The status of that report is that it’s in my department and I will shortly be making a decision on how to proceed. In fact, I expect to bring clarity to this matter in the coming weeks,” he told RTÉ Radio 1.
The action plan was submitted in December 2016 by the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group and recommends a number of major changes, including closing the emergency department and ceasing emergency maternity care, The Sunday Business Post reported.
The Molloys were accompanied by their four other sons at the service, which was organised by the maternity services at the hospital. The Molloys had thought the service was organised by other bereaved families and were surprised to discovered otherwise.
They were further upset when approached by two members of staff afterwards, including a doctor who invited the family to partake of refreshments in the adjoining parish centre.
“To offer me tea and buns. I don’t understand what’s going on over there because we stood up to it,” Ms Molloy said.
“None of them stood up, and they all had the information and the statistics, they had the babies that were dead, they had the desktop reviews, they had the investigations, and none of them said ‘Stop’.”
During the service a large book of remembrance was presented and families were encouraged to write the name of their baby and the date on which they died.
Ms Molloy was reluctant to comment on the action plan without having seen it. However, she said: “What Portlaoise and the surrounding counties need is a safe service.”
She added: “Political interference kept Portlaoise from being downgraded in 2010. Had Charlie Flanagan not interfered and not allowed that hospital to continue as if it was a level three, when it should have been downgraded like the other hospitals, we would never have known.
“We were never told, no members of the public were told: ‘This is just a name-only level three, it has been downgraded in every other way except in name.’”
Her husband said: “It’s like saying: ‘Let’s have a swimming pool and open it 24/7, but only put on lifeguards nine to five, Monday to Friday.’ Who would send their kids to swim? No, but yet these same people are saying: ‘Keep our hospital open 24/7.’ The expertise is not there 24/7.”
The Minister rejected suggestions that he was delaying on responding to the action plan for political reasons. “What’s actually been happening [is] there has been very significant engagement between my department and officials in the HSE in relation to this.
“I’m not going to make mistakes that have been made in the past when it comes to reconfiguration.”
He added: “There’s no Hiqa report suggesting services need to downgraded in relation to Portlaoise . . . What Hiqa has said is there is a need for a plan and a decision and I’ll bring clarity to that in the coming weeks.”