Editorial: Some good must come from this awful tragedy
A REPORT into the deaths of four babies at the Midlands Regional Hospital, Portlaoise makes for very sad reading, as evidenced by the reaction of Health Minister James Reilly when he unveiled it yesterday.
Apart altogether from medical mismanagement and the failure to recognise or act on foetal distress while the mothers were in labour, the report also found that the mothers and fathers involved received limited respect, kindness, courtesy and consideration after raising their concerns with the hospital authorities.
This is the least they could have expected from the medical service entrusted with what is the most important event in a parent's life.
Instead, they had to pursue a lonely course of trying to find out information for themselves by bringing the matter to public notice through a 'Prime Time' programme on RTE.
Of the mothers and fathers, Dr Reilly said: "I very much admire their strength and tenacity and I respect their commitment to ensure that their babies' stories have been heard."
The report has identified clear failures that were known but not acted upon.
The establishment of a managed clinical network with the Coombe Maternity Unit in Dublin will, it has to be hoped, ensure improved, safer and 'patient-centred' maternity services in Portlaoise. Meanwhile, the Health Information and Quality Authority has been asked to investigate the Portlaoise maternity service and produce a report by the end of the year.
There is little doubt that events that took place in the maternity unit in Portlaoise, as the director-general of the HSE Tony O'Brien admitted yesterday, have eroded public confidence in the health services, let down the public and let down the service as a whole.
The maternity services in the country as a whole would benefit from extending the concept of 'managed clinical networks' between smaller regional maternity units and the larger national maternity hospitals, which have proven expertise, training systems and knowledge that could and should be shared for the benefit of all mothers and babies.
It is to be hoped that, despite the tragedy for four families, some good may come of this terrible episode in the long term. Should that be the outcome, the parents' battle for their stories to be heard will not have been in vain.