Baby death probes now nationwide
HSE investigates 'death or serious harm' throughout the North East
New figures show that there are more investigations into cases of death or serious harm caused to infants or their mothers in maternity units in the North East hospital group.
The figures provide the first regional breakdown of 49 serious adverse incidents that have occurred in the country's 19 maternity units since 2012 and which are currently under investigation by the Health Service Executive
They show that all six hospital groups are investigating cases of "death or serious harm" in their maternity units. Fourteen cases are currently under "review" in the Dublin North East hospital group. The Royal College of Surgeons Group covers the Rotunda in Dublin, and maternity units in Cavan, Monaghan and Our Lady of Lourdes.
Ten cases are being investigated in maternity units in the Saolta hospital group in the west of Ireland. This group covers maternity units in Galway where Savita Halapannavar died while miscarrying her baby; Letterkenny; Sligo and Portiuncula, where maternity services are currently under investigation by an independent inquiry team.
Elsewhere in the country:
• Nine cases of death or serious harm are under review in maternity units in the Dublin Midlands Hospitals Group, which include the heavily criticised Midlands Regional Hospital Portlaoise, and the Coombe in Dublin
• Eight are under investigation in the hospital group covering the South, including maternity units in Cork University Hospital, and general hospitals in Kerry, Waterford and South Tipperary
• Six are under review in Ireland East, which covers maternity units in Mullingar, Kilkenny and Wexford General Hospital as well as the National Maternity Hospital
• Two cases of death or serious harm are under review at the maternity unit in the University of Limerick.
In all, 49 cases of death or serious harm in maternity units are being actively investigated by the HSE since 2012, while inquiries into 10 other cases have been closed.
Standards at the regional maternity units in particular have come under heavy scrutiny in recent years - following a series of recent scandals over baby care that hit Portlaoise, Portiuncula and Cavan hospitals.
The HSE released the regionalised breakdown of investigations at maternity units under the Freedom of Information Act. But it has refused to identify individual maternity units, claiming that to do so could compromise patient confidentiality.
The HSE said the figures "relate to cases of death or serious harm" relating to maternity issues which had been escalated nationally and collated centrally.
Some of the serious adverse incidents logged by the HSE's national system have since been included into two independent inquiries into baby deaths and injuries caused by oxygen deficiencies.
Independent inquiries are underway at maternity units in Portiuncula and at Cavan while the health watchdog, Hiqa, produced a scathing report on maternity services at Portlaoise in May.
The Minister for Health, Leo Vardakar, is setting up a patient advocacy service and is expediting the creation of a national maternity strategy.
A separate "paper" review of 28 baby deaths and traumas, conducted by a team led by obstetrician Peter Boylan, recommended that nine of 28 cases should be fully reviewed.