The Tánaiste and Minister for Health is to meet a group of former patients of the Drogheda obstetrician Dr Michael Neary tomorrow to discuss the findings of the official report on activities in the maternity unit at the Lourdes Hospital. Mary Harney said she would then report back to Cabinet.

The inquiry was reporting on the abnormally high number of caesarean hysterectomies carried out at the Co Louth hospital.

Ms Harney also said she would be inviting the gardaí to read the report in the light of its findings that files were deliberately taken from the hospital.

In relation to the setting up of a redress board to compensate former patients for their suffering, the Tánaiste said the issue of compensation did not arise at this stage.

However, she added that she could not see the rights of the 44 women whose files went missing being vindicated in the courts.

Report published

The report says it is hard to fathom how Dr Michael Neary, a consultant at the hospital, could have carried out nearly 130 hysterectomies over 25 years without questions being asked.

The report says it was even more difficult to understand how more than 50 of those hysterectomies were carried out by Dr Neary between 1990 and the end of 1998 in the new maternity unit.

According to the report, apart from Dr Neary, other consultants or registrars carried out 38 such procedures during the same period.

It says that of 91 hysterectomies carried out in the new maternity unit, no more than 20 could be statistically justified.

The report says the maternity unit at the hospital had an unjustified belief in its own excellence. It concludes that there is still work to be done and lessons to be learned and 'meaningful audit is not yet in place'.

The Lourdes Inquiry report is severely critical of what it says was the 'unwieldy bureaucracy' of the health board and the slow response to the introduction of a risk management process.

It says there was the very strong impression given that hospitals were perceived first as providers of jobs in the locality, rather than providers of health services.

It notes that although the Medical Missionaries of Mary continues to play a pastoral role at the hospital, the religious ethos has changed.

The inquiry also says that a peer review by the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Dr Neary's practices should have provoked alarm that one obstetrician carried out 17 caesarean hysterectomies in three years in a middle-sized maternity unit.

The inquiry Chairman, Judge Maureen Harding Clark, says she believes the three obstetricians involved have serious regrets for their part in producing these reports, which she says were motivated by compassion and collegiality.

Judge Clark interviewed nearly 300 people for the report on the unit and the work of Dr Neary.

Dr Neary was eventually suspended in 1998 when two midwives raised concerns about what was going on.

Earlier the President of the Medical Council said that the carrying out of caesarean hysterectomies at the hospital was not part of the culture of the medical profession at the time.

Dr John Hillery was speaking on RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland in response to the suggestion by Dr Alf Nicholson, Chair of the hospital’s medical board, that this was the case.