Parents of fifth baby to die at Portlaoise 'in dark over report'
THE parents of a fifth baby who died in tragic circumstances after her mother attended Portlaoise Hospital maternity unit should have been contacted sooner, a senior health official admitted.
David Walsh, who is responsible for overseeing hospitals in the region, was responding to queries after it emerged Amy Delahunt and Ollie Kelly, of Borrisoleigh, Co Tipperary, lost their daughter Mary Kate in similar circumstances to four other babies at the unit.
Health Minister James Reilly and chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan – who carried out an inquiry into the deaths of the four babies – revealed at the emotional launch of the damning report, on February 28, that the case of a fifth baby was being examined.
But Mr Kelly revealed last night that nobody from the HSE or the hospital informed them they were the family involved and it was as late as last Thursday, nearly five weeks later, that it was finally confirmed.
The agonising delay for the young couple, who lost their baby nearly a year ago, came despite pledges by the HSE at the time of the report's launch that no family would be left searching for answers again.
Mr Kelly said: "We were in the dark. The report was launched on the Friday and the following Tuesday I decided we had to find out if we were the fifth case. I rang the hospital and could not get through to anyone and left a voice mail.
"Nobody got back to me. On the Wednesday I rang the hospital and got through. I got a phone call back from the HSE and the official said he could not tell me if we were the fifth case but had an idea that we were.
"On Thursday he rang to say he was almost sure. He then posted our review of Mary Kate's case, which we had to apply for under freedom of information."
However, it was not until last Thursday that it was confirmed by email that they were the fifth case. The added trauma followed a year of heartbreak for the couple.
On May 21 last, Ms Delahunt was worried her unborn baby was quiet and went to Portlaoise Hospital for a CTG scan, where she was told there were no concerns.
She had a routine appointment with an obstetrician in Limerick the following day, but was left devastated after another scan found her baby had died. An independent UK consultant found the CTG tracings in Portlaoise were "highly likely to be compromised".
The failure to recognise or act on foetal distress during CTG monitoring was also a feature of the other four baby deaths in Portlaoise.
Mr Kelly said he was hopeful the investigation by the Health Information and Quality Authority into the unit would examine their case further.
Mr Walsh told the Irish Independent: "The HSE can confirm that it has clarified to the family in this case that their case was the one referenced at the launch of the chief medical officer's report to the Minister for Health. This should have been done sooner."
He said the parents should have been consulted during the review of their case and their very pertinent questions could only be answered in the context of an independent review .
A spokeswoman for Dr Holohan said when he started his inquiry into the Portlaoise maternity unit he had made it clear to the HSE that all families whose cases had been subject to a review should be contacted without delay.