Thursday 18 January 2018

HSE chief says 'clear-out of uncompassionate staff needed' from maternity units

HSE Director General Tony O'Brien
HSE Director General Tony O'Brien

David Kearns

HSE chief Tony O'Brien has admitted that a review is needed to remove those working in Irish maternity units that “appear to have a significant lack of compassion”.

The embattled director general said that many of the issues which had arisen from Portlaoise were not just about the levels of clinic care at the hospital but “about the human and compassionate care that was or was not provided.”

Read More: Pressure on HSE to reveal all maternity unit failures

“It is important, starting in the maternity unit in Portlaoise, and then the wider hospital and other maternity hospitals, that we have a thorough on going review of the issues that contributed to what appears to be a significant lack of compassion,” he said.

“What we do about it… [is to see] whether there is anyone in the service who shouldn’t be there.”

Read More: HSE faces call for 'clear-out' after damning Hiqa report

Speaking to RTE radio, Mr O’Brien’s comments come following a damning report by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) into practices at Portlaoise Hospital, where a number of babies died in controversial circumstances.

Hiqa said the lack of quality of care and infrastructure in the hospital, including issues raised in several reviews and reports going back to 2006, had put patients at risk.

Read More: 'They knew children could die, that lives could be ruined, but they did nothing'

It heavily criticised what it viewed as “grossly inappropriate” practices at the hospital regarding grieving parents.

Portlaoise patients interviewed by the Hiqa team spoke of traumatic experiences, including being told in a hospital corridor that their baby had died.

One woman said she was reprimanded for crying after her baby's death.

Others were told their baby was stillborn, only to discover in documentation or reports that this was not the case.

Parents in some instances had their baby brought to them in a metal box on a wheelchair covered with a sheet and pushed by mortuary staff.

Read More: HSE clique swept abuse concerns under the carpet, TD claims

Among its chief findings, the Hiqa report found that staff “did not have the skills to help with bereavement”.

It described internal investigations as “defensiveness” and full of “cover-up and unfulfilled assurances, all of which resulted in their confidence being eroded and a significant lack of trust.”

The investigation team said it could not give guarantees that other similar hospitals were not failing in patient safety care.

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