A "WATERSHED moment for the Irish health services" is how Health Minister James Reilly has described the report into the deaths of babies at Portlaoise Midlands Regional Hospital.
Commenting on the publication of the report, Dr Reilly said he believed it would "result in real change and bring in a culture of safety".
The report by the Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health, which examined the deaths of four babies at the maternity unit, found the hospital services were not safe or sustainable, patients and families had been treated at times in an "appalling manner and information withheld for no justifiable reason".
Dr Reilly said the most shocking thing about the report for him was "the manner in which parents were treated following the loss of their baby, the denial to them of the information that should have been available to them and the manner of that denial".
He pointed out that parents had to go through "an endurance test" to get to the truth. Mistakes had been made and not acted upon and then more mistakes made again.
"I am at a loss to explain why they [parents] were treated like this. I find it very distressing. As a doctor it was difficult to understand why professionals would deal with patients in this fashion."
Mark Molloy, father of one of the babies who died at the hospital said he believed the scale and significance of the measures announced yesterday were unprecedented in Ireland.
Mr Molloy and his wife, Roisin, from Kilcavan in Co Offaly lost their baby boy, Mark, at the hospital on January 24, 2012.
The couple, who have four other boys aged between four and 11 years old, spent two years trying to find out what went wrong and if their baby had been a still birth
They eventually found hospital records which showed baby Mark had a heartbeat at birth.
An inquest later ruled that the baby had died "due to medical misadventure".
Last night, Mr Molloy said there was a sense of pride in the work he and his family had carried out over the past two years in highlighting the problems.
He remained very angry with the HSE, however, and said: "Whatever sense of pride and comfort we get in knowing that other babies may go home safely, it pales in significance to the loss we have had to endure to get to this day."
Meanwhile, Minister Reilly said that the matters in the maternity services of the hospital went further than just maternity services and the rest of the hospital needed to be reviewed.
Maternity services nationally also needed to be reviewed, he said.
The Minister of Health said a team had gone into Portlaoise hospital yesterday morning to make the hospital safe.
The onus would now be on the hospital and the HSE to make monthly reports to the Healthy Information Quality Authority (HIQA).
Dr Reilly said he was trusting that if HIQA did not get the information it wanted from the hospital and the HSE "it will be down on them like a ton of bricks".