Press Release

Statement by Minister Varadkar on the HIQA report on Portlaoise Hospital

“I accept the HIQA report in full and I want to thank HIQA and the investigation team for their work.  My Department accepts and will implement the four recommendations made to us. I expect the HSE to do the same with respect to the four recommendations made to it.

“I want to join with HIQA in recognising the courage and fortitude of the patients and parents who shared their stories, and who have given us an opportunity to learn from the past and put things right for the future. We would not have this report without them.

“It’s clear to me that, on occasion, patient safety and quality came second to other interests: institutional, staff, corporate and political. This has to change, not just in Portlaoise but nationwide.

“Reading this report and the seven others of particular relevance to Portlaoise, it is my view that the hospital was allowed to drift for decades without a clear direction or proper support. Practices, resources and standards did not keep up with modern developments.

“We have already taken actions to strengthen services in Portlaoise, rather than waiting for the report to be published. The following actions have taken place in the last year:

  • A new manager has been transferred from Naas;
  • A Director of Midwifery has been appointed for the first time, seconded from The Coombe;
  • Portlaoise now forms part of the new Dublin-Midlands Hospital Group under a new CEO and management team and services will be reorganised within that network;
  • The maternity unit is being transferred to the governance of The Coombe and a Memorandum of Understanding was signed recently between the two hospitals;
  • An ambulance by-pass protocol is being put in place to take complex cases to a larger hospital.

“It would be foolhardy to assume that the problems in Portlaoise are unique to that location. That is why a nationwide and systemic response is warranted. This will involve the further development of the Hospital Groups to ensure that smaller hospitals are supported by larger ones, and that specialist services are centralised where necessary to ensure that patient safety and quality are maintained.

“A Patient Advocacy Service will be established which will be fully independent of the HSE, and the National Maternity Strategy will be published by the end of the year. The 31-member National Maternity Strategy Steering Group set up to advise on the strategy has already had its first meeting and the report will be delivered before the end of the year.

“I also intend to go further than the HIQA report recommends and implement a National Women & Infant’s Health Programme to drive much needed reform and implement the policy being developed by the National Maternity Strategy Steering Group. This will be similar to the National Cancer Control Programme in that it will set and drive standards across all maternity hospitals, and operate as a separate unit within the HSE.

“It is also my view that we will need to enhance how we deal with complaints. Drafting of a general scheme to give HIQA powers to licence hospitals is at an advanced stage.

“The report identifies the need to immediately address the local clinical and corporate governance deficiencies in the maternity and general acute services in Portlaoise Hospital and to publish an action plan to address these issues. I want to see this action plan published and implemented without delay. I also expect the HSE and hospital Group CEOs to publish similar action plans to ensure the quality and safety of their services. It is important for safe service delivery that these action plans align resources and clinical expertise to hospital activity.”