Changes have taken place at Midlands Regional Hospital in Portlaoise the Regional Health Forum Dublin – Mid Leinster heard last week.
Cllr Ivan Keatley had a motion before the meeting seeking what changes that have taken place at the hospital as a result of recent revelations over infant mortality rates.
Having attended the maternity unit with his wife in the last 12 months where they had a successful delivery, Cllr Keatley said, “I couldn’t speak highly enough of the service that was delivered to us”.
“But that doesn’t explain what has gone on since 2006 for some families in terms of bereavements and then the lack of proper engagement,”he said.
The HSE said the changes include: development of fetal blood sampling; the appointment of a quality and patient safety co-ordinator; capital development plan that is at capital design stage that ‘focuses on a new maternity unit (in) 2013’.
Additional staff members have been approved and the HSE said new governance arrangements have been established within the department to augment perinatal morbidity meetings which take place on a monthly basis.
“My heart goes out to those families,” Cllr Kathleen O’Brien said, noting that the families of four babies who died at the hospital have been met with and an investigation is underway.
“Since 2006 midwives outlined the lack of staff at the hospital,” she said, as well as raising concerns about safety procedures. “They kept writing to the different managers ...but I don’t think they were really listened to,” she said. Cllr O’Brien said they must be satisfied that procedures are in place to ensure that “this will never happen again”.
“Fetal blood sampling should have taken place years ago,”Cllr O’Brien said, adding that the cost of a machine to do this was only €12,000.
“This is one of the busiest maternity units in the country,”she said, adding that “staff morale is very low”.
Sympathising with the families whose babies died, Cllr Willie Aird said a process now has to be gone through. “I hope we learn from this,” he said.
He said years ago there were monthly meetings of the old Midland Health Board where questions could be answered. “People will have to be made accountable,” he said.
He also criticised the delays in finding answers for parents, in some cases up to six years. “People still haven’t got any conclusions. This must be harrowing for parents or guardians,” Cllr Aird said.