Minister Denis Naughten has reiterated his belief that parents deserved answers at the time of serious incidents involving their babies at Portiuncula Hospital rather than waiting years for inquiries to be completed. This follows a Dáil debate last week on the publication of the External Independent Clinical Review of Maternity Services at Portiuncula University Hospital.
“My thoughts remain with the families of the babies who were at the centre of this inquiry. A total of 18 cases were investigated, involving the deaths of six babies, and for their parents and all of the parents involved this has been a traumatic experience and the publication of the report added to this anxiety,” stated Minister Naughten.
“For any parent, the loss of a child must be devastating. The knowledge that actions could have been taken to possibly prevent that loss must add to that devastation.
“To have to fight to get answers in such a situation is disgraceful. So my thoughts are with the parents of the babies where different actions by the hospital may have led to a different outcome, and I hope this report will at least provide them with answers as to what went wrong with the care of their babies.
“The fact that it has taken four years for this inquiry to come to a conclusion is totally unacceptable. Parents deserved answers after a serious incident involving their babies at the time of the events, and should never have had to wait years for inquiries to be completed.
“This should be the case not just in relation to Portiuncula but in every single aspect of the health service throughout the country. That is why as part of Government I have been pushing for the introduction of a law making it a legal requirement for medical professionals to disclose medical mistakes to patients at the time they happen and not years later on the steps of the courts.”
Minister Naughten highlighted the fact that the report showed the lack of trust between the maternity units in Ballinasloe and Galway under the control of the Saolta Hospital Group. “This was at least in part as a result of secret plans by the Saolta Hospital Group to close the Portiuncula Hospital Maternity Unit, which it was subsequently forced to withdraw,” added Minister Naughten.
“As well as adding to the distress of families, the delay in publishing this report has been damaging to the hospital, and the fact is that parents at the centre of this inquiry deserve answers, as did the staff at the hospital and the parents who are relying on this service every day.
“For those parents planning to avail of maternity services in Portiuncula, it is important to point out that staffing levels at the maternity unit have been dramatically improved since these very serious incidents occurred, a fact that has been highlighted by Professor Walker, who led the clinical review, and who also stated that the majority of women received a very high level of care at Portiuncula Hospital.
“Furthermore, a large percentage of the 150 recommendations made in this report have been implemented and this is an ongoing process which is happening in conjunction with some of the families at the centre of this inquiry.
“As a member of the Government I expect that the Saolta Group will continue to support Portiuncula Hospital and continue to properly resource and staff the unit, and I welcome the commitment of Maurice Power, CEO, and Dr Pat Nash, Clinical Director of the Saolta Group, to the long-term future of the maternity unit at Portiuncula Hospital as well as their plans for investment in the hospital, putting women and their babies at the centre of every plan for the maternity unit.”