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Mum learned about baby's death investigation on RTÉ show

Prime Time Investigates looked into the deaths of babies at Portlaoise Hospital – the mother of Katelyn discovered that one baby was her daughter Katelyn.

A MOTHER WHOSE baby died after being born at Midland Regional Hospital in Portlaoise said she only discovered there was an investigation into the death after she watched an RTÉ show.

The recent RTÉ Investigations Unit report Fatal Failures investigated the deaths of a number of babies who died either while their mothers were in labour or shortly after at the Maternity Unit in Midland Regional Hospital, Portlaoise.

In the aftermath of the programme, Health Minister James Reilly said that the health watchdog HIQA was to be called in to examine the issues surrounding maternity care at the Portlaoise hospital.

Reviews

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RTÉ discovered during its investigation that the HSE carried out reviews into the circumstances of three maternity cases at the hospital: Baby X, Baby Y, and Baby Z.

Baby X died in 2006, Baby Y was Baby Joshua Keyes who was identified in the programme, and Baby Z was born in 2010 and survived.

However, at the time of the show being broadcast, which was 12 days ago, the families of Baby X and Baby Z had not been told of investigations into their cases.

Dr Philip Crowley of the HSE told the RTÉ programme at the time that:

In very very rare exceptions there may be instances where because of particular social circumstances that the family are not informed.

Sharon McCarthy’s story

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After Fatal Failures was broadcast, Sharon McCarthy discovered that her baby daughter, Katelyn, was Baby X.

RTÉ said this evening that McCarthy “was not aware her case was the subject of an investigation and only received the copy of the report a few days ago, over six years after her baby’s death”.

McCarthy spoke to Miriam O’Callaghan on tonight’s show about Katelyn, who was her first child.

When she was born I just knew straight away something was wrong, she was completely purple and they all started rushing around, and I could hear a little vacuum which I know now was a suction machine. I said to them what’s wrong and I was getting no answers. They went out with the baby and about an hour or two later they came back and said that the baby has swallowing meconium and she would be kept in the special care unit.

She said that within a few days the hospital did a brain scan which came back normal.

“I noticed when I went into her when she was in the incubator she would be making very abnormal movements with her hands and I said it to the doctor, and the doctor had seen it and that’s when she went for a CAT scan,” said McCarthy.

We found out then she had brain damage which was very hard because you are sitting there and you have to listen to doctors telling you that your daughter won’t live past 10 months old, which was extremely hard for me because my first baby, I loved her just the same as any other mother would love their baby, if not more because she was special to me.

McCarthy said she contacted the hospital, and also got her solicitor to contact them about what had happened, but “she was getting nowhere”.

And that was going on 2 ½ – 3 years with the solicitor and I was wondering then, why is it? A solicitor should get some answers but she said no, she hit a brick wall basically. That’s the kind of feedback I was getting back but now I realise why.

Familiar story

Her sister, Sabrina, saw the programme and “it just felt to her very familiar to my circumstances”, said Sharon.

She was very upset when she rang me, she was crying and she said please, please ring them. She said: I feel they can help. I rang and I got through to Patient Focus and Caitriona (Molloy).

Molloy confirmed that Baby X was Katelyn, which “shocked” McCarthy.

Sharon McCarthy said that the investigation report “reopened all the wounds”.

“It felt like the funeral all over again for us,” she said.

She said that she was told by the hospital about the issue of “social circumstances”, and that when she heard this she “clicked on that as being I’m from a travelling background”.

She said that she is a well-educated person who went to college. “I went in and I spoke my views to them and I think they might have been a little bit shocked because basically I wasn’t what I think they were expecting,” said McCarthy.

McCarthy said that the report makes a difference as she and her husband Thomas had blamed themselves for what happened.

“But obviously you know I’d want justice as well and I think things will be a lot better for me and my husband and my family,” she concluded.

Investigation

After Fatal Failures was first shown, it emerged that Portlaoise midwives had written to the then-Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Health Minister Mary Harney in 2006, expressing their concerns over staffing levels at Midlands Regional Hospital.

The staff said in their letter – which was written before the deaths of the babies featured in the investigation programme – they had “a real fear” that a mother or baby would die in their care before the issues were addressed.

Photos: RTÉ Prime Time

Read: ‘We will get all the answers’ – Reilly says HIQA will review death of babies in Portlaoise>

Read: Portlaoise midwives wrote to Cowen and Harney over ‘fears that a mother or baby would die’>

Read: Missed the Prime Time investigation last night? Here’s what you need to know>

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