THERE HAVE BEEN calls for an independent inquiry into the deaths of babies at the Midlands Regional Hospital Portlaoise as parents have been ringing a helpline set up for concerned families.
The helpline – 057 869 6076 – is open from 9am until 5pm today. Callers to the number are asked to leave a voicemail as staff are unavailable, and told that their call will be returned.
An RTE investigation on Thursday examined the deaths of four babies over six years at the hospital’s maternity unit and found that the babies had no physical conditions which would have led to their death. The programme said that “other factors” had led to the death of the infants.
An inquest into the death of one of the children ruled that he had died due to medical misadventure.
The family of another baby who died in 2006 was never told that there had been an investigation into the death.
Minister for Health James Reilly has said an investigation will be carried out into the deaths but as yet there has been no detail on form it will take.
Fianna Fáil health spokesperson Billy Kelleher has said the investigation should be independent and carried out under the auspices of the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA).
“The immediate priority today should be the need for assurances on maternity staffing levels at Portlaoise,” said Kelleher. “Expectant mothers need to have confidence that the hospital is a safe environment for them and their babies”.
The HSE and the hospital issued a statement saying that they accepted there were “serious shortcomings” in the cases.
“There were unacceptable delays in completing reports, communicating with families, and in acting on recommendations,” the statement read. “The HSE and the hospital apologises unequivocally to the families for these failings”.