Parents of babies who died at the Midland Regional Hospital in Portlaoise told Health Minister Leo Varadkar last night they hoped the culture of cover-up in medical institutions had ended.
Shauna Keyes, whose son Joshua died nearly an hour after being delivered by emergency C-section at Portlaoise hospital in 2009, was one of a number of parents who met the minister in Portlaoise.
Shauna said the report by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) on child deaths in Portlaoise marked the end of her family’s five-and-a-half year battle on behalf of her son.
She left the meeting feeling mentally scarred after hearing other parents’ stories.
“I don’t think that anybody anticipated the stories that were told in the room. I am glad that something is being done to end this. It needs to happen,” she said.
“I am glad the minister has taken the time to meet with us and hear our recommendations as service users. He is clearly taking Hiqa’s advice.
“No hospital is 100% safe but I’d certainly be hoping that this would be the last time that we ever have to hear that so many things can go wrong in one institution and that the culture of cover- up leaves with those reported to the relevant bodies.”
Earlier, the minister confirmed that four members of the medical staff at Portlaoise hospital had been referred for possible disciplinary action.
“There have been two referrals to the Nursing and Midwifery Board already; two referrals to the Medical Council and there is a disciplinary process for management that is going to start within the HSE now,” Mr Varadkar told the gathered media.
He said the hospital had been allowed to drift for a number of years because it did not have a clear strategic direction.
“What we need to do is reorganise our services in a better way and that is what the hospital groups are all about.”
He hoped people could have confidence in Portlaoise hospital. “With the changes that had been made in the last year or so, it was probably safer than it had been at any time in the last 10 years.”
The minister said he wanted to meet the parents of babies who had died at the hospital so they could tell him how the eight recommendations made by Hiqa in its report could be implemented.
It is understood that the minister met more than 80 families, who each recounted their own personal story. The meeting lasted more than five hours.
The minister also wanted their advice on how the patient advocacy service should operate and to know how they would like to see the future of the hospital develop.
Mr Varadkar said a steering group charged with developing a new maternity strategy by the end of the year would be using the same model used for the national cancer care programme that had been so successful.
He wanted to make it very clear that any decisions that were made about any special services in any hospital would be made on the grounds of what was best for patient safety and patient outcomes, not what was regarded locally as politically expedient, or to save money.
“In fact, developing special services will probably cost us additional money,” he added.
Asked about the death of a baby in Cavan General Hospital on Tuesday, the fourth there in almost three years, Mr Varadkar said he did not think a specific investigation was warranted at this stage.
He said it appeared that the baby died during a C-section and that was very uncommon, which was why an “individualised investigation” would be needed.
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