Significant patient safety risks at Portlaoise hospital - HIQA

A HIQA review found while that some progress has been made, significant risks remain and the future of the hospital is uncertain

A new report has found that significant risks remain to the safety of patients attending the Midlands Regional Hospital in Portlaoise.

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) today released a review of progress at the hospital after a 2015 report made recommendations to address a number of identified risks to patients.

The original report was undertaken following the deaths of five babies in the hospital's maternity unit. 

Launching the publication of the review this morning, HIQA’s Director of Regulation Mary Dunnion said the report's recommendations must now be implemented in full.

“The remaining risks at Portlaoise Hospital will only be fully addressed through the formulation and enactment of a clear strategic plan for the hospital that is agreed by those with responsibility for the ultimate decision making on the hospital’s future,” she said.

She said the original report had noted that previous recommendations for the hospital had, “not been attended to.”

“To minimize the risk to patient safety and improve service quality, it is essential that the findings of the Portlaoise Investigation and this Review are now addressed in full,” she said.

The review has found that while progress has been made, the hospital is still understaffed and finding it difficult to recruit non-consultant hospital doctors.

The review team were informed that while the hospital is funded to have 70 midwives in both clinical and non-clinical positions, there are currently only 48 employed at the hospital - 10 of whom are on sick leave and maternity leave.

It found that the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit does not meet minimum standards with many of the risks relating to critical care and emergency services still remaining.

HIQA has again questioned whether these services can continue at the hospital - although plans to close the town's emergency department are likely to face opposition from doctors and patients. 

“Despite the improvements to maternity services at Portlaoise Hospital, the lack of certainty around the provision of other clinical services at the hospital has led to difficulty in recruiting and retaining staff and an over-reliance on agency staff,” said Ms Dunnion.

“The ongoing lack of certainty has a negative effect on staff recruitment, retention and morale, and further affects the sustainability of services.”

The review found that service quality and safety have been enhanced as a result of effort to integrate with the Coombe Women add Infants Hospital and said more needs to be done to amalgamate the services.

The Dublin Midlands Hospital Group welcomed the report and said HIQA had acknowledged that “progress has been made, while citing that challenges remain at the hospital.”

In a statement the group said there have been improvements in maternity services and in “corporate and clinical governance and management structures at the hospital.”

“All of us - management, staff, and the wider community - share a commitment to ensuring that the patients of Portlaoise Hospital receive the highest possible standard of care,” the group said in a statement.