A verdict of medical misadventure has been returned in an inquest into a stillbirth in the Midland's Regional Hospital, Portlaoise in 1997.

Barrister Conor Halpin read a letter of apology to the parents of baby Glen O'Reilly, who was stillborn at the hospital on 29 October 1997, at Laois Coroners Court.

The letter apologised for "failings in relation to the care" and the "distress" suffered by baby Glen O'Reilly's parents Dolores and Brendan.

The letter was signed by General Manager of the Midland Regional Hospital, Portlaoise, Mr Michael Knowles.

Solicitor Rachel Liston, of Orpen Franks Solicitors, issued a statement on behalf of the O’Reillys following the inquest. 

"They became aware of possible negligence relating to their baby's death following the [RTÉ] Prime Time programme, which was aired in 2014 relating to concerns regarding the maternity department at the Midland Regional Hospital, Portlaoise. 

"Since then, they have fought tirelessly to ascertain the cause of their baby's death in 1997.  They are grateful to have now received an apology from the HSE for the failings in relation to the care provided to them relating to the delivery of baby Glen.

"Dolores blamed herself for the death of her son for years and the Coroner's verdict of medical misadventure will go some way towards helping herself and Brendan deal with their loss," the statement concluded.

Watch: RTÉ Prime Time - Fatal Failures

A report compiled by Northern Ireland-based gynaecologist and obstetrician Dr Michael O'Hare was read out at the inquest.

Dr O'Hare said a doctor had noted that the baby was "smallish" when the mother, who was then 36 weeks pregnant, was examined after her admission on 28 October.

He said that growth restricted babies were at higher risk of mortality. 

Although no autopsy was carried out, Dr O'Hare said he believed the baby had died as a result of foetal hypoxia.

When asked about the CTG traces, which monitor the baby's heartbeat and contractions,  Dr O'Hare said he believed one trace was "suspicious" while another he deemed "pathological". Asked if he believed early intervention was warranted, Dr O'Hare said he believed so because of the CTG and the small size of the baby.  "On two separate grounds there was certainly, in my view, a case for earlier delivery," he remarked.

Dr O'Hare told the inquest that there were no guidelines in place in relation to interpreting CTG traces in 1997.

Although it was suggested the family had declined the offer of a post mortem examination, this was contested by the family who were adamant that they had not been offered an autopsy for their baby.

Coroner Eugene O'Connor said that having regard to the small size of the baby and the CTG trace, "these are circumstances where a verdict of medical misadventure is appropriate and I propose to so record." 

He extended his sympathies to the O'Reilly family as did counsel for the hospital.