THE HSE HAS repeated its “unreserved apology” for the failings in the care and outcomes experienced by families of babies who died after their births at Portlaoise Hospital.
In a statement, the HSE said a new management team has been appointed on an interim basis in order to run the service from today.
The new team consists of Michael Knowles who is currently General Manager in Naas Hospital and Angela Dunne, currently the Assistant Director of the Coombe Women and Infant University Hospital.
The National Director for Acute Hospitals, Ian Carter, said “the new governance arrangements will bring the appropriate vigour to maternity services in Portlaoise Hospital.”
This is essential to quickly restore any loss of confidence that may have arisen amongst patients who intend to use this facility”.
Commenting on the report, today, its author, Dr Tony Holohan, said the hospital’s maternity services cannot be regarded as “safe and sustainable” in its current form. It also emerged that the death of a fifth baby is currently being looked at.
In the report, it was also highlighted that families were treated in a poor and at times appalling manner with limited respect, kindness, courtesy and consideration. The HSE said its Director General, Tony O’Brien, has recently written to all staff in health services highlighting the importance of honestly communicating with patients and families.
Following the publication of the report, Patient Focus, who has worked with a number of woman who were unhappy with the care they received at the hospital, said they were “deeply concerned by the seeming inaction” by the risk management department in relation to the serious outcomes for babies born there.
“Therefore it is with great relief that we welcome the initiatives detailed by Minister Reilly today,” the organisation added.
Aside from the new interim management team, Reilly said he was directing a swift analysis of workforce planning across the country to be completed by the HSE.
Fianna Fáil’s health spokesperson Billy Kelleher said he thought the findings were “shocking and very disturbing”.
To read that families and patients were treated in a poor and, at times, appalling manner with limited respect, kindness, courtesy and consideration is truly awful.
“It is clear that the families were treated scandalously and that there was simply no justification for the withholding of information from them.”
TD Denis Naughten said the scale of these problems never would have come to light without the “perseverance of Roisin and Mark Molloy in seeking answers” about their baby’s death.
“The Molloys have been forced to put their family life on hold for the last two years in order to get justice for little Mark and the other babies who died under questionable circumstances at Portlaoise Hospital,” he said.
“This should not have had to happen and again highlights the urgent need to introduce a law on medical disclosure forcing health professionals to inform patients when a mistake has been made.”
He said the stress and the pain of these cases has been significantly compounded by the lack of engagement from the hospital and the battle to get basic information.
Sinn Féin’s Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin described Reailly’s response to this report as one of it being “everyone else’s fault” and said the minister should be held accountable.
“His concern is not enough and it is probably too late for some,” he said today. “Minister Reilly on taking up office said he was taking back direct responsibility for the health services to the desk of the Minister for Health and that he would be the accountable figurehead at the helm.”
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) welcomed Minister Reilly’s call for an investigation in to services at the hospital.
In a recent survey, the INMO found the maternity unit in the hospital was the poorest staffed in the country.
This staffing deficit means that the midwifery staff, in Portlaoise, are facing workloads which are double that recommended to maintain best and safe midwifery care.
“Today’s report must act as a turning point. We must see, not only in Portlaoise but all others areas of the health system, the concerns of frontline, registered and regulated nurses and midwives, once articulated, being listened to, and positively responded to, by senior management,” said Liam Doran, INMO General Secretary. “These managers have, in recent years, focused solely upon cost savings and cut backs and not on the quality of patient care.”