Parents of babies who died at the Midlands hospital in Portlaoise had been misled over the circumstances of their children’s deaths, Health Minister Leo Varadkar has said.
Mr Varadkar said he found it “extremely worrying” and “appalling” that parents who lost children at the hospital “were not dealt with honestly”.
He was speaking after it has emerged that in some cases, parents were told that their child’s death was the only one of its kind.
Mr Varadkar said both the HSE and his department had accepted all of HIQA’s recommendations.
Speaking on RTE Radio, Mr Varadkar said it was important to create an environment where hospital clinicians at all levels were honest about mistakes made. He conceded that in the past there had been a culture of defensiveness within the health service.
Mr Varadkar also added that the HSE continued to dispute some of the findings of a damning investigation carried out by HIQA, the health standards watchdog.
A proposed Patient Advocacy Service could be in place sooner than the May 2016 target, Mr Varadkar said.
He also wanted to see the planned national maternity strategy published by the end of this year.
Mr Varadkar also said he expected that terms of reference would be drawn up either this week or the week after for an external review into how certain red flags at Portlaoise hospital did not pass up through HSE management. He said he expected a final report in a number of months.
Last week, Mr Varadkar said he is “ashamed” of the way patients were treated at Portlaoise hospital.
The Minister for Health said an independent patient advocacy service will be “crucial” in supporting patients and changing culture at Portlaoise hospital.
The recent HIQA report, he said, should not be “just another report” but rather a “watershed” in the approach to maternity services.
In the wake of the report into patient care at Portlaoise Hospital, HSE chief Tony O’Brien and other senior health officials came under pressure to step down.
Roisin Molloy, whose son Mark died shortly after his birth at the hospital in 2012, said: “I think he should be one of many to resign. We need a complete clear-out and a proper running, functioning HSE.”
Mrs Molloy said the report demonstrated that senior HSE officials were warned the maternity services at Portlaoise were unsafe, but recklessly allowed the situation to continue.
Mr O’Brien insisted he would not be resigning. “The bulk of the events, not all of them, happened before I was in my present role,” he said.
“I came into this role at the request of the then Minister for Health to make a range of changes to the HSE,” he added. “My view is that the actions I took are the right actions,” he said.