Women frustrated by lack of progress on Portlaoise cases

Analysis: Promises for better care in future are no help to those who already suffered

Two years after the horrific mishaps at Portlaoise hospital were uncovered, more than 100 women are still seeking closure over the treatment received in the maternity unit.

A HSE team is reviewing 103 cases, spanning over three decades and varying in circumstances from stillbirths to child deaths and babies born with impairments. A report on this clinical review process was expected by last July, but has yet to appear.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has highlighted the improvements made in Portlaoise since the scandal broke, but women who have concerns over problem births at the hospital say they remain "stuck".

The promises of more staff and better care for future generations contrasts with the lack of progress in relation to women who suffered past traumas.


Advocacy service

Mr Varadkar used his meeting with families last week to talk about the doubling of midwife numbers and new obstetrician appointments, along with arrangements placing the Portlaoise unit under the effective governance of the Coombe women’s hospital.

The Minister has promised to establish a patient advocacy service and reforms have been made to speed up the handling of medical negligence cases.

“These improvements are really welcome but the victims of poor care in the hospital remain stuck,” says Róisín Molloy, whose son Mark died due to negligence in the unit in January 2012. “The reviews are not complete, there is no accountability and the HSE is still defending cases.”

Ms Molloy’s issues with the HSE in relation to her son’s death have been resolved, but for many of those whose cases came to light since, there has been no such closure.

"They're pushing the PR side of things and how services are now much better but what use is that to us?" asks Ollie Kelly, whose partner Amy Delahunt's baby died in May 2013. "The families looking for justice have had obstacles put in their way; we've been left behind."

The 103 cases are being reviewed by a team set up by the HSE after the women made contact in the aftermath of the RTÉ Prime Time programme on Portlaoise in January 2014.

The women were supposed to have received the result of their review by last July, but to date nothing has been heard from the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group, which has responsibility for Portlaoise.

A spokeswoman for the hospital group says the process is thorough and open. Every family has been offered a meeting with the team of external consultants and senior midwives. These will be completed in late February.

Frustrated with the lack of action on their cases, more than 20 families have contacted solicitors with a view to taking legal action. Most will have to spend thousands of euro commissioning an independent medical report in order to progress a claim.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times