Parents accuse HSE of hospital cover-up

Bereaved parents have accused the HSE of covering up warning signs in relation to baby deaths at Portlaoise Hospital.

Mark Molloy, whose son, also Mark, died shortly after birth in January 2012 in the hospital’s maternity unit, told a meeting of the Oireachtas Health Committee the Hiqa report “absolutely” reflected their experience.

“What jumps off the page straight away for me is they [HSE] were aware at local, regional, and national level that this was an unsafe unit,” said Mr Molloy

He said he and his wife, Roisín, had been “screaming” about the issue for about 18 months but the HSE did nothing.

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“We vehemently disagree that this scandal is a result of ignorance or ‘lack of escalation’,” said Mr Molloy, who listed 33 pieces of correspondence in relation to his son’s investigation and wider patient concerns.

He believed there was an attempt at both local and national level to suppress repeated known red flags, which perpetuated failings leading to repeated deaths and injuries.

Amy Delahunt, whose daughter Mary Kate died in May 2013, fought back tears when she addressed the committee.

“We demand to know how her avoidable death and those of others were allowed to happen,” she said.

“The director general of the HSE, Tony O’Brien, must stop misinforming the public that these events were before his time with the HSE.”

Ms Delahunt referred to Hiqa’s finding that financial matters were prioritised over all other considerations within the HSE.

She said that HSE funds were being continually used to employ legal expertise to limit inquests’ scopes and therefore any derived learning. Patients were continually encouraged to take legal action so that the health authority was prevented by law from being involved in an investigation, she added.

Ms Delahunt appealed to Health Minister Leo Varadkar to investigate all levels of HSE management in relation to this scandal.

“The HSE management team is clearly incapable and cannot be trusted to implement this or previous Hiqa reports,” she said.

Ms Molloy said that when they moved up along the HSE management structure, they thought they were bringing something new to them but they quickly realised it was just lip service.

“What we wanted at that stage was an acknowledgement of Mark’s death and the seriousness of it and to prevent it happening again,” she said.

“It was completely lost on each and every member of the HSE the importance of learning from Mark’s death to ensure it did not happen again.”

The Molloys followed the HSE’s own system but they themselves were departing from it constantly.

Ms Molloy said they found out there were other parents like them because she had been so vocal about her own child’s death.

“Normally when someone is in grief they are stunned into silence. Unfortunately, for the HSE, I went in the opposite direction. I was the crazy mother saying to everybody that my child died and shouldn’t have died and to make sure that, if you are going to Portlaoise, that you are going to be safe so people started sharing their stories with me,” she said.

Ollie Kelly, Ms Delahunt’s partner and Mary Kate’s father, said that if lessons had been learned, his daughter would be alive today.

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