Baby Scandals: No formal order made to Hiqa to investigate

Hiqa CEO Phelim Quinn and acting director of regulation Mary Dunnion at Leinster House, Dublin.

Opposition parties have demanded to know why a promised inquiry into the deaths of babies at Cavan General Hospital did not take place.

The questioning came after another baby died at the hospital, and amid concern over a damning investigation into Midlands Regional Hospital in Portlaoise continued.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the Government had gone back on a pledge to investigate the situation in Cavan.

“Two infants died in the same hospital in 2014 and another in November 2012. Last May the then minister for health, Deputy James Reilly, announced in a press release that he would instruct Hiqa to review and pay particular attention to maternity services at Cavan General Hospital and said the use of an external agency was essential to bring objectivity to the review,” Mr Martin said.

“However, it now appears that no formal order was made to instruct Hiqa to investigate the unit and no review was carried out,” Mr Martin said during Leader’s Questions.

He also expressed concern that lessons had not be learned after the death of Savita Halappanavar.

“A year ago the minister announced that Hiqa would investigate maternity services at Cavan General Hospital but no order was issued to Hiqa and nothing happened.

“Over two years ago, following Savita Halappanavar’s untimely death, a national maternity strategy was ordered but nothing happened until Hiqa’s report landed on the desk of the minister two weeks ago.”

Taoiseach Enda Kenny joined Mr Martin in expressing sympathy to the families involved in the deaths, but said the Government had taken the situation at Cavan seriously.

He said: “I understand that, following the death of the third baby in May 2014, the then minister for health, Deputy James Reilly, wrote to Hiqa on 14 May, requesting it to prioritise the monitoring of the maternity unit at Cavan General Hospital against the national standards to ensure safer and better health care, as part of the overall response to the chief medical officer’s report on maternity services in Portlaoise.

“Hiqa subsequently sought a detailed report on the three cases involved and it was provided by the HSE.” The Taoiseach insisted that reassurances needed to be given to expectant mothers.

“We need to focus on maternity services so that every expectant mother can look forward to giving birth in a maternity unit where the highest standards apply,” Mr Kenny told the Dáil.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams expressed concern about standards as he said the warnings of past reports had not been heeded which had put patients at much greater risk.

“The national incident management team has also said that it is aware of other “numerous sad and serious cases at all HSE sites”.

“Hiqa goes on to make the point that if the findings of previous Hiqa recommendations had been implemented the risks to patients would have been vastly reduced,” Mr Adams said.

Mr Kenny said it was wrong to say changes had not been made in hospitals after previous incidents.

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