Saturday 20 January 2018

Three-month wait for independent report into Portlaoise hospital

Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise
Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

IT will be three months before another independent investigation will report on why senior executives in the HSE did not act to reduce risks to patients in Portlaoise hospital, it emerged yesterday.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar estimated it would take that long before an independent consultant, who was being hired to look at the flow of information about Portlaoise among all ranks of the HSE over several years, would report.

He conceded the refusal by hospitals to provide proper answers about injury and death to distressed patients and their families extended way beyond the maternity services.

He again cast doubt on all 19 maternity units remaining open, but said he needed more information before deciding if any should close on patient safety grounds. No service can stay open to save money or spare a local politician from losing votes, he insisted.

Mr Varadkar was speaking as families who lost babies in Portlaoise maternity unit reiterated their call for accountability in the wake of the highly-critical Health Information and Quality Authority report which blamed failures at local, regional and national level.

Mr Varadkar agreed families who tried to find out why their babies died in Portlaoise were "lied" to. This was "extremely worrying" and they were not dealt with honestly, he told RTÉ's 'This Week' programme.

The full details may never have emerged if they had not gone to the media, he said. Hospitals were too defensive and the voice of the patient was not always heard, he added.

But despite the major criticisms levelled at the HSE, it will be senior HSE managers who will commission the external consultant to look at how safety alerts about problems in Portlaoise were raised.

The terms of reference have yet to be drawn up and the examination will take as long as three months to complete.

Mr Varadkar said he hoped to have a new patient advocacy organisation, which would work with patients seeking answers, set up before the May 2016.

He said maternity services would no longer come under the umbrella of hospital services in the HSE, but would have one HSE maternity chief running the service.

Irish Independent

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