Statement by Séamus Healy TD
It is important to thank the families who have persisted in raising these issues. It is also important to thank the Minister for the manner in which he has dealt with the situation and to welcome the report of Dr. Tony Holohan, the Chief Medical Officer, in relation to this matter.
There appears to be unprecedented failures here. It is truly shocking to learn of the lack of respect and due care for families at such a sensitive time. They were treated appallingly. As someone who worked in the hospital services for more than 20 years I am at a loss to understand that. I also find the culture outlined in the report completely foreign to my experience. It appears from the report that there was a breakdown at every level of responsibility and authority not only at Portlaoise hospital, but at national level. I have listened to the commentary on this issue and have read various reports on it. It is not clear from those reports why this happened. It appears to me that the significant reductions in expenditure nationally, including the 11,000 reduction in staff, has put enormous pressures on staff, in particular at Portlaoise hospital. There is no excuse for any staff member at any hospital not treating people with due care and respect or providing quality service. However, there is no doubt that staff are under constant pressure.
I understand that a number of posts at senior level in Portlaoise hospital were filled on a temporary basis only and that 25% of staff, nursing and medical, are agency staff. Deputy Ó Caoláin referred earlier to the ratio of midwife to births at the hospital being 1 to 55 despite that nationally it is 1 to 29.5. This coupled with the aforementioned staffing issues suggests to me that there are serious pressures on staff in that hospital. Another significant matter highlighted in the report is that of the concerns raised by staff at a number of levels. What action was taken as a result of those concerns being raised? It is not clear from the report what happened in that regard. Also, what procedures are in place now to address future concerns raised by staff?
I welcome the HSE statement in regard to the open disclosure policy. I hope it will not be only a policy but will be acted upon on a daily basis within and throughout the service.