Thursday 18 January 2018

Significant risks remain at Portlaoise Hospital - patient safety watchdog warns

Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise Photo: HSE
Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise Photo: HSE
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Significant risks to patient safety continue at Portlaoise Hospital and its future is uncertain,a major report warned today.

The troubled hospital was at the centre of controversy two years ago after it emerged that five babies died in its maternity unit in similar circumstances since 2006.

It led to an investigation by the patient safety watchdog Hiqa which published a damning report with eight recommendations in May last year.

Today’s report from Hiqa, which reviews progress in implementing its recommendations ,said  maternity services at the hospital are now being provided in a safer and more sustainable way.

But while some safeguards have been put in place, many of the risks identified during the investigation in 2015 relating to other general services in the hospital,remain unchanged.

These include critical care and emergency services for undifferentiated patients- these are all types of patients with any degree of seriousness or severity of illness or injury.

The 2015 Hiqa report said its recommendations said must be implemented to ensure that risks and deficiencies identified are addressed at both local and national level to ensure the delivery of safe and consistent patient care.

Today’s report said the  most significant change in general services provided at the hospital since the investigation has been the ending  of complex surgery.

But otherwise  limited change to the provision of general services has occurred.

Portlaoise Hospital continues to provide a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week emergency service for  adult and paediatric patients who may arrive at the hospital with any degree of seriousness or complexity of illness or injury.

However, the governance arrangements in the emergency department remained largely unchanged and continue not to be in line with the HSE’s National Clinical Programme for Emergency Medicine, it said.

The intensive care unit still does not meet the minimum requirements for critical care as set out by the Joint Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine of Ireland.

Hiqa  is still not assured that critical care services are sustainable.

Referring to its maternity services it said  improvement has been facilitated by enhanced leadership, governance and management within the service, increased investment, and an improvement in the staff to birth ratio, which has been largely driven by a reduced number of births.

Efforts to begin the process of integration with the Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital have also seen service quality and the safety of services enhanced at Portlaoise Hospital, but more remains to be done to progress this clinical network

Hiqa’s Director of Regulation Mary Dunnion said “ While some progress has been made, significant risks remain and the future of the hospital is uncertain.”

“Those with responsibility for the ultimate decision making on the hospital’s future must determine the range of clinical services that Portlaoise Hospital can or could safely deliver. “

She said making these decisions will require careful planning to avoid unintended knock-on impacts on other hospitals in the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group, neighbouring hospital groups, the National Ambulance Service and community services.

Once the decision has been made, the plan should be implemented as quickly as can be safely achieved.”

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