Outrage as maternity review put back until end of year
A review of maternity services at Portiuncula Hospital, which was due to be completed by September, has been delayed until the end of the year at the earliest, the Irish Independent has learned.
The inquiry into standards of maternity care, including two baby deaths, in the facility in Ballinasloe, Co Galway, was initially set to be completed within five months. It was announced earlier this year with a nine-strong review team put in place in March.
At least 12 births at Portiuncula between 2008 and November 2014 are being investigated by the nine-person inquiry team, which is headed by James Walker, Professor of Obstetrics in the University of Leeds.
However, four months later a number of affected families have still not been interviewed by the team, with planned meetings cancelled at short notice.
Warren Reilly, who lost two daughters at the hospital, said families were being left in the dark. He and his wife Lorraine had been due to meet investigators in June, but it was cancelled.
Dates provided for a meeting in July were later pushed back to this month, but the family are still awaiting confirmation that it will go ahead.
"We've been trying time and again to get answers from them, but it's been so difficult. We always said the five-month time frame wasn't enough, but now we're four months in it's clear that isn't possible. We should have had a completed review by September, but we have now been told it could slip into next year," said Mr Reilly.
Mr Reilly also expressed concerns that an expert investigator who stepped down from the inquiry team has not been replaced. Cora McCaughan, the Head of the HSE's National Incident Management and Learning Team, withdrew from the team in April.
"It's very frustrating. Every time we get an email or letter it causes us more anxiety or upset. Any time we start to think we are making progress we get nothing for months or just half answers," Mr Reilly added.
A statement from the Saolta Healthcare Group said the review of maternity services was ongoing.
"Given the complexity of the work involved, the anticipated time frame for the completion of the review has been extended to the end of this year. The families involved have been advised of this," the statement said.
"Regular re-audits at the maternity unit at Portiuncula Hospital have confirmed that there is no continuing patient safety concern.
"We regret any distress that this process may cause. All of the families have been offered access to the support services that may assist them in dealing with the various issues that arise," it added.