A garda investigation should take place into the deaths of the babies in Portlaoise Hospital according to Sean Fleming TD.
During a Dáil debate on the hospital this week, Dep Fleming questioned whether it was a criminal negligence for senior and middle HSE management to conceal the incorrect classification of the some of the babies deaths.
“In some of the cases at the centre of this debate, babies were wrongly classified as stillborn, even though they were actually born alive.
“ This was concealed by the HSE, by senior and middle management and many other people for a long time. Does the Minister know whether that is a criminal offence? Is it a criminal offence to conceal a death or record it incorrectly?” he asked.
Dep Fleming said that a Garda investigation would make senior public servants sit up more.
“It is fine to have HIQA investigating such matters but sometimes a visit from members of An Garda Síochána can make senior public servants sit up more than any admonishment from their superiors, including from a Minister.”
The Fianna Fáil TD also called for more money to be invested in training staff.
“The HSE spending more on training will result in less spent on medical negligence down the road,” he said.
The Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar, said he had requested a plan and a timetable from the Director General of the HSE detailing when they would implement HIQA’s recommendations.
He said he had approved the composition and terms of refereence for the oversight committee, who will report back on a monthly basis. These reports will be published quarterly.
“I have approved the composition and terms of reference of this group which will be chaired by the Chief Medical Officer and include senior officials from my department, as well as patient representation.”
The Health Minister continued: “I have also written to the HSE director general, requesting a plan and a timetable to implement HIQA’s recommendations. This plan will be used by the oversight group to monitor the HSE’s progress on implementation.
“A named person in the HSE will have responsibility for reporting to the oversight group on behalf of the directorate on progress made on a monthly basis. The reports will be published quarterly.”
He said meeting the bereaved parents in Portlaoise recently was “a harrowing experience but an invaluable education”.
Sinn Fein TD, Brian Stanley said the HSE had a responsibility to set out a clear plan for Portlaoise and turn it into a modern, fully developed regional hospital.
“Portlaoise hospital has to be resourced as a busy regional hospital. Adequate consultant cover must be provided for emergency, maternity, paediatric and other core services,” he said.
Deputy Stanley urged the Minister to prioritise building a new maternity unit in Portlaoise.
“HIQA was very clear in recommending that the long awaited new maternity unit be constructed. I recall raising this issue as a county councillor several years ago. Staff of the hospital have been calling for the development of the new unit for many years. I am aware that money is always an issue, but I urge the Minister to prioritise the project.”