Watchdog cannot say if 'services at Portlaoise Hospital safe'
THE HSE failed to take appropriate action to deal with a litany of issues at Portlaoise Hospital, a damning HIQA report has found.
Deceased babies brought to grieving parents in a tin box and mothers reprimanded for crying - these were just some of the shocking details outlined by the health watchdog's report at the Midland Regional Hospital.
The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) said it can't guarantee that services in the Portlaoise Hospital are safe.
HIQA found that until last year the hospital, which was open for 24 hours-a-day, only had a consultant on site for 24 hours each week.
The investigation was instigated following a Prime Time documentary which probed the deaths of five babies at the hospital.
Margaret Murphy, a patient representative and member of the HIQA investigation team, said that there were serious problems with the way parents were informed about the death of their baby.
"Mothers described how they were reprimanded for crying as this could upset others on the ward," she said. "They were told of their deceased babies being brought to them in a tin box covered by a blanket on a wheelchair and the lasting effect that has had on their memory of their baby."
The report strongly criticises the HSE's failure to adequately act to reduce risks identified at the hospital over many years.
HIQA said it is "unable to definitively conclude that services at the hospital are safe".
The 208-page Patient Safety Investigation Report found failures of governance across the HSE at national, regional and local level but it stopped short of naming particular individuals.
The investigation concluded that "Portlaoise Hospital was allowed to struggle on despite a number of substantial governance and management issues in relation to the quality, and safety of services".
HIQA will appear next week before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health to discuss today's report.
The babies who died in Portlaoise Hospital were, baby Katelyn who died in 2006, baby Nathan who died in 2008, baby Joshua who died in 2009, baby Mark who died in 2012 and baby Mary Kate who died in May 2013.
Roisin and Mark Molloy of Killeigh, Co Offaly, told how their little boy Mark died just 22 minutes after he was born.
Mrs Molloy said that the death of his son at Portlaoise Hospital was described as "an incident".
"When Mark died, our experience was Mark was called 'the incident'," she said. "He wasn't 'an incident', he was my fifth boy. He was a beautiful, beautiful little fellow.
"It was like the ceiling falling in on me," Mrs Molloy added.
Mr Molloy said he was not allowed carry the baby in his own car, driven by his brother, so he went in the back of a taxi holding his son's body in his arms.
The Molloys spent two years trying to find out what went wrong and if it was, in fact, a stillbirth as they were told.
They eventually found out that hospital records recorded that baby Mark had a heartbeat at birth. Mark's death was then reclassified as a neo-natal death and an inquest was held.
The Molloys were among several parents to call for an investigation into their babies' deaths.
HIQA said it was in contact with 83 families - some of whom were referred by the Chief Medical Officer, the HSE, and Patient Focus. The watchdog met and interviewed 16 families.
"The failure by some staff to show compassion in the care they provided, and what those patients and families felt to be the absence of openness from those managers and clinical staff that they subsequently engaged with, resulted in devastating consequences for them," the report said.
Minister for Health Leo Varadkar received the final report yesterday. He is expected to respond to it today at the annual conference of the Irish Nurses and Midwives' Organisation.