Hospital investigations set to add to mountain of paperwork

Pictured are Michael Knowles, Manager Midlands Regional Hosp. Minister for Health, Leo Veradkar and Frank Dolphin, Chair Midlands Hospital Group on a walkabout at Portlaoise. Photo Denis Byrne.
At least six investigations are underway as a result of the deaths at the maternity unit to add to the growing pile of unimplemented reports carried out with relevance to Portlaoise Hospital.

At least six investigations are underway as a result of the deaths at the maternity unit to add to the growing pile of unimplemented reports carried out with relevance to Portlaoise Hospital.

The most directly relevant of these is a HSE commissioned investigation by 6 obstetricians into 28 cases that emerged in the wake of the Prime Time Investigates programme last year that revealed the deaths of five babies in Portlaoise. It is set to report this week, but will require further investigations.

Phase two of this process is set to start shortly involving a further 65 cases. It is likely that more cases could be added to this list.

Also underway are investigations into doctors and nurses. While neither entity could confirm last week that it had any complaints on its books, it emerged that the two main regulators of doctors and nurses are looking into complaints.

The Medical Council is investigating two doctors while An Bord Altranais is examining cases into two nurse. Despite it being confirmed by the Minister, neither agency would even confirm that it had complaints on its books.

The demands for accountability in the HSE were somewhat answered last week when the director general of the HSE announced he appointed an external investigator in accordance with the HSE’s disciplinary procedure to look at ‘issues of concern’.

He admitted that “many issues were escalated but they did not always find their way to the right decision making levels”.

The HSE is also setting up an inquiry to investigate clinical staff. The names of the investigators and terms of reference will be published shortly.

Also due to start work is a Maternity Strategy Steering Group which has been tasked with coming up with a new national plan. Two of its members are women who lost children at Portlaoise.

But it remains to be seen what will happen as a result of the findings.

The solution of putting the Coombe Hospital in charge of Portlaoise’s maternity services was recommended in 2006.