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Watchdog to investigate baby deaths


Minister for Health James Reilly has expressed concern over baby deaths at Portlaoise.

Minister for Health James Reilly has expressed concern over baby deaths at Portlaoise.

Minister for Health James Reilly has expressed concern over baby deaths at Portlaoise.

The health watchdog is to be called in to investigate the deaths of babies who died in one hospital over several years.

Health Minister James Reilly said the Hiqa inquiry would be ordered after chief medical officer Tony Holohan completes an initial review of the deaths of four babies at the Midlands Regional Hospital Portlaoise.

All died either during labour or within seven days of birth and a feature common to all of their deaths was anoxia, oxygen starvation to the brain.

It is believed foetal distress was not properly recognised or acted on while mothers were in labour.

Families have been pressing for an independent inquiry, including Mark and Roisin Molloy whose son Mark died 22 minutes after birth at the hospital on January 24, 2012.

"We stayed with the Health Service Executive for two years. It has to be a full Hiqa inquiry, not only on baby deaths in Portlaoise but how these were allowed to happen - from the highest levels of the HSE and why alarm bells weren't ringing," Mr Molloy said.

"There does have to be decisiveness. It's been going on, in our case, two years. We need decisiveness, as well as being robust and quick and clear in getting to the bottom of what happened."

Over the weekend two of the families met the health minister and chief medical officer Tony Holohan, who is reviewing four baby deaths in Portlaoise.

"I have asked him (Mr Holohan) to do a report as expeditiously as possible," he said.

"I believe we will be calling in Hiqa but I think it would be a real value in Hiqa having the benefit of the CMO's report and his report will look at all relevant issues raised by the families.

"We have a real issue to be addressed here and I believe the families are entitled to all of the answers."

Mr Reilly said families affected will be intimately involved in the investigation.

Hiqa said its inspectors were already planning to carry out a review of governance structures in Portlaoise this year to examine the safety and quality standards in place at the hospital. It had planned the review before the baby deaths story emerged in an RTE Prime Time report last week.

A preliminary report from Dr Holohan is expected to be with the minister within weeks.

Members of the Oireachtas Health Committee met the Molloys today before discussing the issue at a private meeting.

The Molloys, from Co Offaly, who had to seek to have their son's death register changed from stillborn to newborn, have sought explanations on their son's death from the HSE for two years.

Roisin Molloy said it was essential that Hiqa get involved.

"We had tried the HSE system for investigations. It failed us and it failed Mark and the other parents as well," she said.

"It's been a long road to get here but at last we do feel that someone is listening to us and something will be done."

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said there needs to be decisiveness and clarity for mothers and expectant mothers in the maternity system.

"Clearly inefficiencies pointed out in the system that applied in Portlaoise have got to be addressed," he said.

The Oireachtas Health Committee said it remains open to meet other parents whose babies died in Portlaoise.