Belfast Telegraph

Portlaoise Hospital intensive care unit still unfit for purpose, says Hiqa

The intensive care unit of a major hospital remains unfit for purpose more than a year after a damning investigation exposed it as unsafe.

Controversy-hit Portlaoise Hospital also remains unable to cope with all patients needing emergency treatment, says the State health watchdog.

This is despite a significant increase in funding and staffing in the wake of a scandal over services at the hospital last year, the latest Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) review found.

"As things currently stand, and despite a 15% increase in funding and an 18% increase in staffing numbers, the hospital does not currently possess the inherent internal capability to manage all of the patients that may present to the Emergency Department," the watchdog said.

"While many of the issues identified during the Hiqa investigation (last year) have been addressed, others remain."

These issues include the state of the intensive care unit - which Hiqa has condemned as "unfit for purpose".

The watchdog said there has been little change at the critical service, which still does not meet minimum standards.

Part of the problem at the hospital, Hiqa says, is a staffing issue.

Uncertainty over its future has led to difficulties recruiting and keeping staff.

An ongoing reliance on agency staff is costly for the hospital and feeding into poor morale, it was found.

However, the latest review also signalled significant improvements in how Portlaoise Hospital is run.

"In particular, this review has identified that maternity services at the hospital are now being provided in a much safer and sustainable way," it added.

Last year's investigation at the hospital was prompted by the deaths of five babies in the maternity unit.

Since then, maternity services are being amalgamated with the Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital in Dublin, an idea first proposed in 2006.

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