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Now every hospital has test to make sure babies get oxygen during birth

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Minister for Health James Reilly

Minister for Health James Reilly

Minister for Health James Reilly

A test to help doctors and nurses know if a baby is getting enough oxygen while their mother is in labour is now available in the last maternity unit in the country to be left without the procedure.

The maternity unit in Mullingar Hospital introduced the foetal blood-testing this week, a key recommendation in a series of reviews carried out on the deaths of several babies in Portlaoise Hospital in the last six years.

The test was introduced to Portlaoise maternity unit in recent weeks and it became operational in Mullingar on Tuesday, a spokeswoman confirmed,

The need for the test was highlighted in reports which looked at the deaths of babies in Portlaoise maternity unit.

Foetal distress was either not recognised or not acted on, and their mothers were also given a drug to speed up labour which caused a further drop in oxygen.

The blood test normally takes around five minutes. It can help the doctor judge whether the foetus is getting enough oxygen during labour, and whether it is safe to continue with labour or deliver the child.

Meanwhile, Health Minister James Reilly became emotional in the Dail yesterday when he was responding to questions about the Portlaoise baby deaths.

His voice broke as he spoke of meeting the families and he said he found it very disturbing to hear about the way in which patients' families were treated by the hospital and the HSE.

"I assured the families that the review process will be transparent, that they will be involved and they will have the opportunity to see the report in advance of its release."

The chief medical officer is now reviewing the deaths in Portlaoise Hospital and it is expected this will be referred to the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA).

Families want a full-scale investigation by HIQA but it is unclear if this will take place.

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