Health minister: Cavan baby deaths tragedy demands answers

Health Minister Simon Harris has called for a “speedy conclusion” to investigations into the deaths of two newborn babies in a public hospital amid claims the tragedies are linked to chronic under-funding.

Mr Harris insisted finding out what happened must be examined as a matter of urgency after the fatalities emerged at the start of this week.

As reported in recent days, two newborn babies died in separate incidents at Cavan General Hospital last Wednesday and Sunday.

In both cases, emergency caesarean sections took place, while questions have been raised over whether there was any delay in contacting the on-call obstetrician to carry out the operation on Sunday.

The HSE has opened two investigations into the tragic deaths while the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland — which controls the hospital group overseeing Cavan General — is also examining what happened.

However, amid opposition concerns on the latest fatalities to strike Ireland’s crisis-hit maternity services, Mr Harris has insisted these reports must be concluded as a matter of urgency in order to uncover the cause of the deaths.

Health minister: Cavan baby deaths tragedy demands answers

“I think it is really important that we have these reports so we can establish the facts. It’s also very important that we respect patient confidentiality at this very sensitive and difficult time for families,” the Fine Gael minister said on his way into the Government’s latest cabinet meeting yesterday morning.

“It’s absolutely essential that people can have confidence in their maternity services, and I see a speedy conclusion of these reports, so the facts can be known, as a very important part of that confidence.”

In a statement last night, local Sinn Féin TD and former health spokesman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin expressed his sympathies to the families of the babies who died, and said there is now a crisis of confidence in Cavan General.

Sinn Féin TD and former health spokesman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin
Sinn Féin TD and former health spokesman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

He said “some very unfortunate outcomes have come to light” and that, while no avoidable errors can be assumed, there are a number of previous adverse incidents in the hospital “going back a number of years” which must also be examined.

Local Fianna Fáil TD Niamh Smyth stressed Cavan General has a good reputation in the area.

However, noting the facility is effectively covering for most of the North-east due to long-standing service cutbacks, she said funding and staffing issues must also be examined by any inquiry.


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