Reilly denies planning to shut maternity units

HSE study mooted closure of up to four obstetric units in west and north-west

Minister for Health James Reilly: said the HSE report had ‘no standing on its own’. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Minister for Health James Reilly: said the HSE report had ‘no standing on its own’. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Wed, May 14, 2014, 19:14

Minister for Health James Reilly has said he has no plans to close any of the State’s 19 maternity units.

Dr Reilly said a study commissioned by the HSE, which moots the closure of up to four obstetric units in the west and north-west, has “no standing on its own”.

The study, which was revealed in this morning’s Irish Times, has to feed into a national review of maternity services, the Minister told the Dáil today.

The study proposes a number of options for the future of maternity services in the west and north-west, from no change to current arrangement to the closure of up to four units at Ballinasloe, Castlebar, Sligo and/or Letterkenny. The closure of the maternity unit at Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe features in four of the six options outlined in the report.

Dr Reilly said staff-patient ratios in maternity units were far too high but there had to be an examination of the roles of those working in hospitals so as to determine how better use can be made of staff. “We must find ways to support staff using other staff so that we can provide the safest possible care for patients.”

Bill Maher, chief executive of the West/North-West Hospitals Group, said no reconfiguration of services has been recommended to or approved by the groups or its senior management. “Feasibility studies have not even been carried out and speculation at this early stage in the process is unhelpful and upsetting for patients and staff.”

He said a review of existing models of maternity care was being conducted across the group, and the board had accepted recommendation to develop consistency in these care models.

Staff and the public would be engaged in the consultation process and the review of maternity services in the west and north-west would be considered as part of the broader national review of services, he said.