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Varadkar 'ashamed' of patient treatment at Portlaoise hospital

The Minister for Health met with bereaved parents last night to hear their stories.

Updated 6.40pm

MINISTER FOR HEALTH Leo Varadkar has said he is “ashamed” at the way in which patients at Midland Regional Hospital in Portlaoise were treated.

Speaking to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children today, Varadkar said they had been treated “without respect, care and compassion when they most needed it, by members of my own profession and other professions”.

“Patients and their families were treated dreadfully and at times inhumanely.”

Last night, bereaved parents met with the minister to tell him about their experiences at the hospital.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, mother Shauna Keyes, whose baby Joshua died at Portlaoise Hospital, described the meeting as “tiring, difficult and very powerful”.

Minister Meets Families Who Lost Childr Shauna Keyes, from Tullamore County Offaly, who lost a baby in the Midlands Hospital Portlaoise. Source: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Over 100 people attended the meeting and took to the floor to explain their stories to the minister.

“I will never be able to unhear what I heard last night,” said Keyes.

“I have heard some very awful stories over the last two years….it was that each story was worst than the next.”

She said the minister addressed patients and assured everyone he cared deeply about what had happened.

Portlaoise Hospitals The Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise. Source: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

A damning HIQA report into the safety and standards at the hospital was published this week and finds repeated failures and non compliance.

Anger and grief 

Keyes said there was a huge sense of anger and grief in the room, but she said “mostly there was support for one another which was nice to see”.

“120 odd strangers holding each other up and helping each other through a really difficult time, it was nice.”

She described the minister as being composed as people recounted their stories and said “he seemed pretty upset about what was being said”.

Keyes said Varadkar updated them on the progress thus far and filled them in on his visit to the hospital.

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He told the victims that he had heard “some interesting things” from the staff’s perspective.

Varadkar assured parents that those who were accountable would be sent to the relevant bodies. He also told anyone who felt they were harmed to report it to the relevant bodies also.

Keyes said she hoped things in the hospital would never return to the way it was.

As the hospital is now under the management of the Coombe, Keyes said she couldn’t see it “going back that direction – I really hope it doesn’t”.

She said she believed the hospital was a lot safer because of the scrutiny Portlaoise Hospital is under and because it is now the best staffed maternity hospital in the country.

HSE Director General Tony O’Brien today told the Oireachtas committee that the hospital is safe because of measures taken over the last two years to improve services.

- With additional reporting by Michelle Hennessy.

Read: “Like something from a Frankenstein novel” – bereaved mother describes Portlaoise Hospital’s morgue>

Read: Investigation after another newborn baby dies at Cavan Hospital>

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