01 Oct 2022

Portlaoise maternity review to be published by the HSE

Maternity Clinical Complaints Review to be given to families next week

Midlands Regional Hospital, Portlaoise

Historic failings at Portlaoise hospital are back in the headlines with news that the HSE is to publish a review of complaints relating to maternity services there.

RTÉ reports that the 'Maternity Clinical Complaints Review' has been completed and affected families will be provided with copies of the final report early next week.

It follows a review of all maternity-related complaints received following the broadcast of the RTÉ Investigates programme, Fatal Failures, in January 2014 which uncovered a series of baby deaths at the Midlands Regional Hospital Portlaoise.

It is reported that the Maternity Clinical Complaints Review - which was commissioned by the HSE Acute Hospitals Division in May 2014 - will be published on the HSE website on Tuesday 23 May at 12 noon.

Since the report was commissioned services have been radically overhauled in the unit. The process was started by current Fine Gael leadership candidate Leo Varadkar when he was Minister for Health. Extra staff have been recruited and the service is managed directly by the Coombe Maternity hospital in Dublin.

The Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) carried out an extensive investigation in the wake of the controversy. Its report was published in May 2015 when Leo Varadkar was Health Minister. He met many of the parents affected by failings at Portlaoise hospital and promised answers.

Consultant obstetrician Dr Peter Boylan led and initial clinical review of 28 maternity cases 23 of which related to Portlaoise. That report was published in 2015. All 28 women were offered meetings with either clinical staff from the hospital ore with a team of independent experts. Some 16 of these women met the experts.

In March 2015, the chief executive of the Dublin Midland Hospital Group, Dr Susan O'Reilly took responsibility for Phase 2 of the review. Hiqa says this second phase was set up to examine concerns raised by 102 women who contacted the HSE or HIQA.

A review team was required to meet families with an obstetrician or midwife or paediatrician or neonatologist. A clinical chart review of 17 additional cases was also carried out.

All of the 102 complaints went through a similar process to the review carried out by Dr Boylan. In its follow up report published last December, Hiqa said the HSE informed it that 89% of these complaints related to Portlaoise. 

In its follow up report, Hiqa also found that shortcomings remained at the Maternity unit but that "significant improvement" had been made in "all" the key areas of concern.

The Steering Group which oversees the integration of the Coombe and Portlaoise hospitals has drawn up plans for the redevelopment of the maternity unit but no agreement for implementing these plans was reached with the HSE prior to Hiqa publishing its follow up report last December.

A plan for the future of the hospital drawn up by the HSE's Dublin Midlands Hospital Group is with the Minister for Health Simon Harris. It is widely understood to recommend downgrade.

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