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Dublin: 9°C Thursday 9 December 2021

There were nearly 70 cases of death or incapacitation in Irish maternity hospitals last year

One woman’s diagnosis of septicaemia was missed.

Image: Shutterstock/AnikaNes

NEARLY SEVENTY INCIDENTS in Irish maternity hospitals left women and babies either dead or permanently incapacitated.

The figures from the State Claims Agency were released to RTÉ’s Prime Time programme and come from a host of acute hospitals across the country.

The figures also revealed that there were three cases rated as ‘major’ – meaning they led to long term disability. There were 1,248 moderate incidents which required medical treatment.

Grace Vaughan from Navan, Co Meath told the programme she had become unwell when in Cavan General Hospital giving birth to her second child in March 2013.

She left the hospital in such severe pain that she required a wheelchair.

Her husband Emmett called an ambulance later that night and she was taken to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda where she was diagnosed with septicaemia.

She spent three weeks in hospital recovering from her infection, just four months after the death of Savita Hallapanaver in Galway University Hospital.

Despite months of phone calls, Grace’s first contact from the hospital was a phone call from a hospital representative over six months after her son was born.

She told RTE Prime Time: “I remember being very nervous because I hadn’t spoken to anyone from Cavan hospital and very angry as well and I didn’t know how I was going to react.

I was cynical about the phone call I was cynical about the health system I am cynical about cover ups so [the Cavan Hospital representative] said ‘Grace you left this hospital fine and I said how can you say that?’

Last week Grace received a letter from the Director General of the HSE Tony O’Brien. He confirmed that an external review of her case was now underway, and added: ‘However I do not need to await the outcome of this review to know that you deserve an apology on behalf of the Health Service.’


The Prime Time programme also featured the case of baby Caoimhe, who died shortly after she was born at Limerick University Hospital in 2009. The hospital denied in face-to-face meetings and correspondence that they had made any errors in the handling of Caoimhe’s death for five years.

However Caoimhe’s parents, John and Joan Mulcair, contacted UK-based Consultant Obstetrician Edward Shaxted and asked him to carry out an independent report.

The report noted that the baby became progressively more starved of oxygen during the last hour and a half of labour.

The signs of this were clearly recorded on the cardiograph tracing…. these signs were largely ignored by those caring for Mrs Mulcair.

Another woman, Claire Rushe from Offaly, told how she had been told that she miscarried her baby, but that this was incorrect. She in fact lost the baby nine days later. She believes that the stress of the misdiagnosis led to the miscarriage.

Read: ‘Ireland’s maternity units are facing chronic and dangerous understaffing’

Read: Decision to outsource surgery at Portlaoise “threatens existence of hospital”

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