Saturday 20 January 2018

No calls for disciplinary action in new report into baby deaths at hospitals

Portlaoise Hospital. Photo: Mark Condren
Portlaoise Hospital. Photo: Mark Condren
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

No staff member has so far faced disciplinary action arising out of failures uncovered in reports investigating maternity services at Portlaoise Hospital.

Nearly two-and-a-half years after it first emerged that five babies died in the unit between 2006 and 2013 in similar circumstances, a review is still under way to determine if anyone has a case to answer.

A HSE spokesman said the human resources review, which began in May 2015, was now close to conclusion.

But this is likely to face another assessment before a decision is made to institute any internal disciplinary proceedings.

The failure to hold anyone accountable follows the publication yesterday of another HSE-commissioned report, which looked at 153 of the 203 patient complaints spanning 40 years to a helpline set up after the baby deaths revelation.

Róisín Molloy, whose baby son Mark died in Portlaoise Hospital in 2012, said yesterday the latest report was one of a series which "tell us what happened but not why it happened".

Mrs Molloy and her husband Mark were the first to go public to highlight failures in Portlaoise.

"Until we find out why dangerous practices were allowed to continue, we will never be able to say it will never happen again," she said.

She called for accountability - and pointed out that no disciplinary process has been put in place despite the myriad of findings.

The Maternity Clinical Complaints Review found that serious failings in CTG monitoring - checking the baby's heartbeat during labour - were identified in previously publicly unreported deaths of three infants between 1985 and 2014.

It was also a factor in the case of a fourth baby who survived.

However, an investigation found no trend in failing to recognise abnormal CTG scans.

Dr Susan Reilly, chief executive of the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group, said the HSE had apologised to 14 families, eight of whom lost a baby, following the report's recommendations. It called for mandatory training in reading CTG scans.


Former Holles Street master Dr Peter Boylan, who chaired the review, said Portlaoise Hospital was now "as safe as any hospital in the country to have a baby in".

However, it has seen a drop in confidence, particularly from first-time mothers.

It is also continuing to rely on locum doctors. The report recommended that each junior doctor should be in a recognised training scheme.

The complaints to the helpline also related to eight other hospitals including the Rotunda, Coombe, Limerick, Cork, Kerry, Mullingar, Tullamore and Galway maternity units.

Reviews into a number of baby deaths are under way in some of the other hospitals.

In relation to the Portlaoise service, patients spoke of not being treated with dignity or respect. There was also a lack of bereavement support, as well as difficulty getting copies of records.

Dr Peter McKenna, a former master of the Rotunda who has been appointed by the HSE to be clinical director of the Women and Infants Health Programme, said the aim was to ensure that each hospital analyses its statistics.

Currently, there is no maternity hospital which has a perinatal mortality rate which is "statistically unacceptable".

Irish Independent

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