Grieving parents in shock at continued patient safety risk
The parents of a baby who died shortly after birth at Portlaoise Hospital said it is "shameful" it still poses a risk to patient care.
Mark and Roisin Molloy - who received a People of the Year award at the weekend for their courage in campaigning for improved services at the hospital following inaction over their baby's death - said the lack of a plan for its future left it in a state of drift.
They were responding to a review by the patient safety watchdog, the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa), which warned significant risks to patient safety remain and its future is uncertain.
Ms Molloy said she was shocked that the maternity unit, which should have 54 midwives for its 1,600 births, has just 48 employed and is heavily reliant on agency staff.
"Staff at the hospital are doing their best to improve services but the uncertainty over its future means there are not enough of them to ensure full standards of care are possible," she said.
The hospital was plunged into turmoil nearly two years ago after it emerged five babies had died in its maternity unit in similar circumstances since 2006. Hiqa's latest review said maternity services at the hospital were now being provided in a safer and more sustainable way.
But while investment and safeguards have been put in place, many of the risks identified in other services during Hiqa's 2015 probe remain unchanged.
These include critical care and emergency services.
The hospital continues to provide a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week emergency service for adult and paediatric patients.
Hiqa's director of regulation, Mary Dunnion, said the lack of a plan for its future meant it was more difficult to recruit and retain staff.
The latest report piles more pressure on the Government to make a decision on whether it will downgrade the hospital and shut its 24-hour emergency department.
A draft HSE report which has gone to the Health Department is believed to call for its 24-hour emergency department and other services to be curtailed.