While welcoming the publication of the Chief Medical Officer DR. Tony Holohan's report and recommendations on the series of perinatal deaths in the Midlands Regional Hospital Maternity Service at Portlaoise, Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has blasted the reaction of Minister for Health James Reilly T.D. as an "act of political face-saving".
Deputy Ó Caoláin described Minister Reilly's response as one of it being "everyone else's fault" and with "no responsibility whatsoever falling on the shoulders of the man who has stood over the significantly understaffed Maternity and Midwifery service at the Portlaoise Hospital over these past number of years".
The Sinn Féin Health spokesperson said:
"I welcome the publication of Dr. Holohan's report. The Chief Medical Officer has investigated the matter of the perinatal deaths at Portlaoise Hospital thoroughly and has made appropriate recommendations.
"However, he fails to reflect on the failure of successive Ministers for Health to ensure that staffing levels at the Midlands Regional Hospital Maternity Service were maintained at the required level, a responsibility that most certainly has been placed on the current Minister, James Reilly T.D.
"I found it galling to listen to Minister Reilly's lunchtime interview on RTE Radio today. While I do not question the sincerity of his expression of sympathy and regret to the families concerned, it was in my view, an act of political face-saving.
"In James Reilly's book it is everyone else's fault and there is no responsibility whatsoever falling on the shoulders of the man who has stood over the significantly understaffed Maternity and Midwifery service at Portlaoise Hospital over these past number of years.
"A transition team are now in place in the maternity services at Portlaoise to ensure improved, safer patient centred services for all women presenting.
"The HSE have been requested to examine all similar sized maternity units around the country to evaluate the benefits of their incorporation into managed clinical networks within their respective hospital groupings.
"The Minister has directed HIQA to carry out an immediate investigation of the Portlaoise Hospital Maternity Services and to report by this year's end.
"And the Minister says he is concerned about staffing.
"His concern is not enough and it is probably too late for some. Minister Reilly on taking up office said he was taking back direct responsibility for the health services to the desk of the Minister for Health and that he would be the accountable figurehead at the helm.
" He has, over his three years in office to date, failed to address the already highlighted understaffing of the Maternity Services at Portlaoise Hospital and has instead compounded the situation by pressing ahead with further cuts in funding and personnel.
"We do not need further analysis, reviews and reports to tell us that our hospital services, including Maternity and Midwifery, are understaffed and that there is a serious underprovision of nurses.
"Whether a transition team could turn things around in Minister Reilly's office is a mute point. The bottom line is that James Reilly has got to go and the sooner the better" concluded Deputy Ó Caoláin.