A patient support group was inundated with calls from heartbroken parents about their experiences at maternity hospitals across the country after an RTÉ documentary on the deaths of four babies in six years at the Midlands Hospital, Portlaoise, was screened.
About 150 parents called Patient Focus after shocking revelations were made in the Prime Time documentary.
The programme, screened last Thursday, found the babies were alive at the onset of labour, but died either during the labour or within seven days of birth.
Cathriona Molloy of Patient Focus said that the patient advocacy organisation received a flood of calls after the programme and worked throughout the weekend to deal with them.
Patient Focus supported a number of the families that appeared on the programme and felt it had a duty to provide contact numbers at the end of it.
“We knew people would be upset and expected to get calls about more baby deaths at Portlaoise.
“However, other hospitals were mentioned as well. We have found from the calls received that similar deaths have occurred in other hospitals and there have been more baby deaths in Portlaoise in addition to those that were mentioned during the programme.”
Ms Molloy said her group listened to callers and advised them on how to look for their baby’s medical records, put a complaint together, and look for a review. “Most of the calls we received were maternity-related and were similar to what was revealed on the RTÉ documentary — babies died and parents did not get explanations.
“Other calls were about babies who had been damaged at birth due to lack of oxygen or about very poor care given during labour. We were very surprised at the number of calls we received. We knew we would get some calls but not that many.”
A number of babies born at Portlaoise were transferred to maternity hospitals in Dublin for treatment.
“There was one particular case where staff at the maternity hospital in Dublin were horrified at the condition the baby was in,” said Ms Molloy. “You would wonder what they did. Did they get back onto Portlaoise and say: ‘What’s going on there?’”
She also said Patient Focus wanted to be involved in any inquiry by the Oireachtas committee on health and children.
Tomorrow the committee will hold a private meeting to discuss issues arising from the RTÉ documentary.
Chairman Jerry Buttimer, said he was glad that James Reilly, the health minister, had asked the chief medical officer to review incidences at Portlaoise. “Our health system must work in the interest of patients. It should not operate to obstruct patients finding out the truth,” he said.
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