Portlaoise maternity complaints review process was 'protracted and chaotic' for families

Patient Focus

Portlaoise hospital

Midlands Regional Hospital Portlaoise

Patient Focus critical of how maternity complaints process was operated by HSE and hopes lesson have been learned

Patient Focus criticised the manner of the investigation that followed the Primetime programme in 2014, but said lessons have been learned.

Bridget Doherty spoke on the group’s behalf at the launch of the HSE Maternity Clinical Complaints Review. They accompanied many families through the process since 2014.

In the early days of the review new Fine Gael leader and likely Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar met many families at a meeting in Portlaoise. He demanded that the inquiry be speeded up.

She described the review as a really difficult process for the families.

“It was quite chaotic and very protracted. We believe some families were pushed beyond endurance through frustrations and not feeling included, because there was so little information on the process and what was going to happen.

She said Patient Focus acknowledges that some of the families will get comfort from the report, but it will “reignite sadness and emotional distress” for others.

She said other families resolved outside the official HSE led reviews and had their concerns addressed in the hospital which was quite positive.

She said lessons must be learned for any future reviews that put people at the centre.

“A change has to happen with systems analysis. The systems analysis is for the hospitals and system. But in the middle are human beings who have beenhurt and are very sad about what happened to them,” she said.

She said Patient Focus would be very dissappointed “if the learnings from this review are not taken forward.” One of these was that reviews could be completed within two months. “Families do not need to wait for up to five years for answers. We would urge that people are included in reviews at a very early stage so that they do feel included in the process and that their queries can be answered,” she said.

She said families hurt by problems in Portlaoise want lessons to be learned, there and elsewhere.

“Patients don’t feel it is acceptable to find that there is learning in one patch, that is not learned nationally.

“We sincerely hope going forward that we will never have this massive review in any part of the healthcare system again. We hope that processes will be followed.

She said Patient Focus deal with issues every day.

“We find it difficult at times to understand what processes the HSE are following. Hopefully we will have a common approach in the future.”

She said people shouldn’t have to approach the media to have their concerns listened to by health service managment and staff.

The HSE admits that the review of maternal deaths was difficult for families and patients.

Dr Susan O’Reilly of the HSE's Dublin Midland Hospital Group was the Commissioner for the Phase 2 of the Clinical Complaints process.

“Firstly, I would like to acknowledge that this has been a difficult and stressful process for the patients and their families.

“The sensitivity of this report is emphasised by virtue of the number and range in nature of the complaints. Each complaint considered in this review is important.

“As healthcare professionals, we are always conscious of the considerations of patients, not least in difficult or tragic circumstances.

“This was front of mind in our thinking throughout this review process.

“It was important that patients’ complaints were heard, not least as it has served to inform and improve how we deliver and develop maternity services.

“The review team has endeavoured to answer questions, identify issues that needed further review or investigation, and make clear findings and recommendations,” she said.

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