THE anguished parents of a baby who died minutes after birth have called for a full public inquiry into safety standards at the hospital maternity unit.
Roisin Molloy and her husband Mark were speaking in the wake of a television documentary which revealed how four babies died in similar circumstances in Portlaoise hospital in just six years.
The couple, from Kilcavan in Offaly, lost their baby Mark in January 2012 after he suffered lack of oxygen, when staff failed to properly monitor him during labour, and gave Mrs Molloy a drug that exacerbated his foetal distress.
The HSE last night apologised to the families and said it accepted there were serious shortcomings in the cases – as well as unacceptable delays in completing reports.
It also acknowledged that it failed to communicate with families and act on the recommendations of reviews into the deaths.
It insisted the deaths were isolated incidents.
Health Minister Dr James Reilly has now said that chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan will draw up a report on the infant deaths. But Mrs Molloy said this does not go far enough.
"We need a public inquiry to find out the full truth and the Health Minister James Reilly must meet the families face to face," Mrs Molloy told the Irish Independent.
She said she also wanted an investigation into the manner in which the Health Service Executive (HSE) deals with families seeking answers.
Mrs Molloy said that she and her husband faced a battle to discover why their fifth child had died.
The Molloy family were first told that Mark was stillborn and it was only after putting pressure on the hospital to investigate his death that the cause was revealed.
Serious concerns about failures in the Portlaoise maternity unit were aired in a documentary from the RTE Continued on Page 2
Investigations Unit last night which found that four babies died in similar circumstances since 2006.
Questions were raised about the failure of staff to properly recognise an abnormal CTG trace while monitoring the foetus during their mother's labour.
Concern also emerged about giving the mother the drug syntocinon - the synthetic form of the naturally-occurring oxytocin - to speed up labour. The drug can be administered if labour is not progressing but it is known to exacerbate foetal distress.
The documentary revealed:
* The first baby died in 2006 and another had a "near miss" and survived;
* Nathan Molyneaux died six days after birth in 2008, but his heartbroken parents were never told the hospital carried out a report into his death;
* Baby Joshua Keyes died in 2009 an hour after his birth. He suffered oxygen deprivation during birth after his mother had been given the drug syntocinon.
Ms Keyes told the programme how the HSE never informed her that a review into the death was carried out and it took four years before she learnt the truth.
The report found that a lack of proper guidelines on the use of the drug was a contributory factor to the baby's death.
* Mark Molloy died in January 2012 in similar circumstances – although the hospital had completed a report on baby Joshua's death nine weeks earlier.
The HSE insisted that the Portlaoise death rate for babies was "in line with maternity services nationally" and each of the tragedies were isolated incidents.
But a key recommendation of the reports – to introduce foetal blood monitoring – only began in Portlaoise two weeks ago and it has yet to start in the maternity unit in Mullingar Hospital.
Patient Focus, the patient support group, said it was appalled at the failure of the hospital to act on recommendations and it called for a 10-year review of deaths at the hospital.
Dr Reilly said the chief medical officer's report would look back over 10 years if needed.
And he said he would "take whatever actions need to be taken".
The HSE said the national director of acute hospitals, Ian Carter, will arrange to meet with the families to discuss any concerns they have relating to the care they received or how they were treated.
Richard Greene director of the National Epidemiology Centre said that, in general, Ireland was a safe place to give birth.
"The ESRI annual reports into perinatal mortality rates have consistently shown that Ireland performs very well in relation to international perinatal mortality rates.
"Ireland has a rate of 5.9 per 1,000 live births and stillbirths, compared with the UK where the perinatal mortality rate was 7.4 per 1,000 and France where it was 12 per 1,000 in 2012."