Thursday 22 February 2018

New probe at troubled hospital over baby death

The Midland Regional Hospital in Portlaoise. Photo: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland.
The Midland Regional Hospital in Portlaoise. Photo: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland.

Eilish O'Regan, Health Correspondent

AN INVESTIGATION is under way after the death of a baby at the maternity unit in troubled Portlaoise Hospital last weekend.

The baby died on Saturday, and the coroner has now asked that a post-mortem be carried out to determine the cause of death.

It is understood the baby was already dead in the womb before the mother was admitted to the maternity unit, and it was too late for staff to save the baby's life.

There was no foetal heartbeat when the pregnant patient was brought to the hospital, which she had previously attended for ante-natal care.

Roisin Molloy - who went public with her husband Mark recently after they got no answers about the death of their son Mark in 2012 - said the news of another death has brought back the pain of losing her son.

She said she was very "upset" and could empathise with how the parents feel.

"Please God it is not another avoidable death", she said.

A spokeswoman said that the hospital's incident management policy has been triggered following the latest tragedy to hit the hospital, which has already been at the centre of controversy over four deaths between 2006 and 2012.

She said the perninatal death took place on Saturday and the Health Service Executive sent its condolences to the family.

The maternity unit was deemed unsafe nearly two weeks ago, and is now under new temporary management.

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has already begun a widescale investigation into the care standards across the entire hospital, which is due to take several months.

It follows the report of chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan, into the care given to four families who lost babies over six years in the maternity unit.

The report described their treatment as appalling, and said it was unsafe, prompting the transfer of staff from the Coombe maternity hospital in Dublin to oversee its running.

The hospital's internal incident management plan – which has now been put in action following the latest death – must find out what happened, what was the cause and ensure procedures are in place to minimise the chances of it happening again.

Portlaoise Hospital maternity unit recorded seven perinatal deaths in 2012, five of which were stillbirths.


The chief medical officer's report examined the care of families who lost four babies over six years.

These babies died from a lack of oxygen after foetal distress was not recognised or acted on during the mother's labour.

The mothers were also given a drug to speed up labour, which led to a further drop in oxygen.

A recruitment campaign for additional midwives is under way, but Health Minister James Reilly said staff shortages did not provide an explanation for the level of care given to the families.

Mothers who lost babies found themselves with women who gave birth; appropriately sized coffins were not always made available; infants were transported in boots of taxis for post- mortems; and the hospital suffered from inadequate facilities and equipment.

Phelim Quinn, HIQA's Director of Regulation, said the investigation team would review the arrangements for providing safe, quality clinical care – which will include how the hospital focuses on the needs of patients, the management and leadership at the hospital.

It will also review the systems and processes that support safety and quality, and the communication between staff and patients, particularly when patient safety incidents occur and when complaints are made.

Irish Independent

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