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Róisín and Mark Molloy who lost their baby Mark. Brian Lawless/PA Wire/Press Association Images
lack of compassion

'Why did it take a Prime Time programme to highlight the problems at Portlaoise maternity unit?'

The chief medical officer was questioned on the deaths of babies at Portlaoise this morning.

THE CHIEF MEDICAL officer, Dr Tony Holohan, was questioned by an Oireachtas Committee over the deaths of babies at Portlaoise Hospital this morning.

The issues brought up were shortage of staff at Portlaoise maternity unit, the system for those who make complaints within the hospital and the lack of compassion shown to the parents.

TD Catherine Byrne said,

The report made me very angry and sad. Something broke down and I’m not fully convinced it was to do with staffing levels. It doesn’t take 40 or even 20 people to show some compassion and put an arm around somebody and hand them their baby back to hold. That takes one person.
Fianna Fáil TD Billy Kelleher said,
When you look at increase of births, when you see staff under pressure all the time, corners are cut and clearly that is an issue of concern.

“The system seems to be resistant of any form of accountability. When information is brought to management, who oversees the local management or does it just stop at that?”

Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin also brought up the understaffing in Portlaoise maternity unit:
We have a midwife to birth ratio of 1:55, the recommended ratio is 1:29.5, we need 33 additional midwives.

Senator John Crown said “Births went up from 1,000 to 2,500 and yet the number of consultants stayed at three”.

Lucinda Creighton said the HSE were aware of these issues. “Senior figures within the HSE met with the families but failed to bring it to the Minister’s attention”.

Fianna Fáil TD Sean Fleming asked “Did it take a Prime Time programme to embarrass somebody to do something about this?”


Dr Tony Holohan said that the culture in the hospital was unacceptable.

Dealing with families fell very far short of a reasonable standard of care.

He said the lack of holding the babies, washing them and dressing them added to the distress of families.

He said recommendations found families were treated with a poor and at times appalling manner.

“Families had questions they wanted answered and senior staff were not there, information was held from families for no reason”.

Minister Reilly addressed understaffing by saying that “It’s not always about how many doctors…we need to reform our system and see how we can best deliver on what we all know is a very limited resource.”

A report into the babies deaths at Portlaoise Hospital by Dr Holohan has been published with 42 recommendations to make improvements at the hospital.

What will be done?

The Health Minister said this report will be used to fix the service.

We listened and we heard and we acted. We have an opportunity now to change the culture to what we would want ourselves.

“People want acknowledgement of what went wrong, an apology it went wrong and a promise it won’t happen again”.

Reilly said “nobody is saying staffing levels didn’t have an impact but it doesn’t explain the culture and attitude … what was done was just unacceptable on a human level and we have to change that.”

He also noted that a patients safety agency will be set up so people have someone on their side to direct them on how to deal with their issues.

A new management team has also been appointed on an interim basis in response to the deaths of the babies.

Read: TDs and Senators to question chief medical officer on Portlaoise baby deaths>

Read: HSE replaces management at Portlaoise hospital in response to baby deaths>

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