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Baby's death sparks probe at Portlaoise

THE HSE is investigating the weekend death of a baby at Portlaoise Hospital's maternity unit.

The agency said a post-mortem would be carried out shortly and expressed its condolences to the family.

It is understood the baby was dead in the womb before the mother was admitted.

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

The hospital, which is to be investigated by the Health Information Quality Authority (HIQA), was at the centre of controversy over four infant deaths between 2006 and 2012.

The babies died from a lack of oxygen after foetal distress was not recognised or acted upon during labour.


In some cases, grieving mothers were put in the same wards as mothers who had given birth and dead babies were taken to post-mortems in taxis.

Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer at the Department of Health, said the families had been very poorly treated.

Phelim Quinn of HIQA added: "The investigation team will review the arrangements for providing safe, which will include how the hospital focuses on the needs of patients, the management and leadership."

Minister for Health James Reilly indicated he could not guarantee the failures reported at Portlaoise were not happening in other hospitals.

"It's not good enough for hospitals to tell us they are doing something," he told the Oireachtas Health Committee. "We need outside monitoring."

Dr Holohan told the same committee it was an "over-simplification" to say staff shortages were behind the deaths.

But a report by him did outline how a rise in births at the unit had not been matched by a rise in staff numbers.

And he added some of the "ingredients" found in his examination of Portlaoise maternity unit would also be discovered in other hospitals.

His admission came after a mother spoke of her anguish after having to bury her baby girl twice following a series of blunders at the unit.


Janice Boland (39) and her husband John, from Sallins, Co Kildare, lost their daughter Caitlin in 2006 after an emergency Caesarean section.

The couple believed they had buried their first-born child, but more than a year later, they had to make a second trip to the graveyard after it emerged the hospital had kept parts of the infant's remains, which were eventually returned in a coffin.