HSE failed to tell parents of report into their baby's death
THE family of a baby who died from lack of oxygen in Portlaoise Hospital nearly six years ago has still not been told about the existence of a report into his death.
Another family, whose baby almost died in similar circumstance in 2009, is also unaware that the hospital has a report on the near-tragedy.
The HSE insisted last night that the circumstances relating to the two families were "being reviewed" to determine if they could be contacted at this time.
A spokesman for the HSE said it intended to contact the families as "soon as is reasonably possible".
The ongoing delay emerged after Health Minister James Reilly had said he was "appalled" that the two families still did not know that an investigation took place. He also apologised to the parents of the babies who died.
"What people seek is an acknowledgement that something went wrong, an apology that it went wrong and the promise that it won't go wrong again because we've learnt from the experience and things will change," Dr Reilly said.
"But that clearly didn't happen here in this situation.
"I'd like to take this opportunity to apologise to the families concerned," Dr Reilly told the Irish Independent during his visit to Naas Hospital in Co Kildare.
He said he found the documentary by the RTE Investigations Unit "upsetting and disturbing".
Earlier, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said it was a "harrowing time" for the families.
Dr Reilly was speaking amid growing concern about failures of care at the maternity unit after it was revealed that four babies died in similar circumstances over six years as key safety recommendations were ignored.
The babies died between 2006 and 2012 of oxygen deprivation during labour or in the first seven days after birth after the signs of foetal distress were either not recognised or were not acted upon.
The HSE has apologised to the families for the failings but insisted they were "isolated" cases and that the perinatal death rate in Portlaoise is lower than the national figure. The mothers were given the drug syntocinon to speed up labour, even though it can cause a further drop in oxygen.
Roisin Molloy, of Kilcavan, Co Offaly, whose son Mark died in January 2012, yesterday repeated her call for a wide-ranging independent investigation which will not just examine care standards at the hospital but also how the HSE dealt with families as they looked for answers.
When asked if Dr Reilly would agree to a request from the families to meet with them, he said: "The Minister would welcome such a meeting."
Portlaoise maternity unit only acted on a key recommendation following the deaths in recent years by introducing foetal blood monitoring during labour.
The HSE was yesterday unable to say why Mullingar Hospital now has the only maternity unit in the country without this testing.
Meanwhile, the HSE was unable to say what action was taken in 2006 when all 32 nurses in the Portlaoise maternity unit wrote to the then Health Minister Mary Harney and Finance Minister Brian Cowen warning about dangerous staffing levels. The ratio of midwives to patients is now 1:70, which is still below best international standards.
A HSE spokeswoman said a helpline would be operating from 9am to 5pm today and tomorrow. The contact number is 057 869 6076.