Information on safety of maternity units to be published

Statements detailing facilities’ history promised in wake of baby deaths in Portlaoise

The Midland Regional Hospital in Portlaiose. Róisín Molloy, whose son Mark died in Portlaoise, told the launch the greatest apology she and other parents could get was to implement the new maternity  strategy. File photograph: Matt Kavanagh/The Irish Times

The Midland Regional Hospital in Portlaiose. Róisín Molloy, whose son Mark died in Portlaoise, told the launch the greatest apology she and other parents could get was to implement the new maternity strategy. File photograph: Matt Kavanagh/The Irish Times

 

Detailed information on the safety of the State’s 19 maternity units is to be published by the HSE next month.

The statements will allow intending mothers to make judgements about the quality of local maternity services by providing safety-related information such as the number of births, staffing ratios, the number of adverse incidents and the number of claims against a unit.

Publication of this information was promised in reports published in the wake of the controversy over baby deaths at Portlaoise hospital in order to raise public awareness and provide information for patients, according to the Department of Health’s chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan.

The proposal met resistance in parts of the health service but agreement has now been reached between the department and the HSE on publication of the information.

Dr Holohan was speaking at the launch of the Government’s first national maternity strategy, which proposes a new model of maternity care that will see more women giving birth in non-hospital settings.

Worthwhile

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar said implementation of the strategy, described as a “fundamental overhaul of services”, will cost €52 million over 10 years. He described this as worthwhile and “less than the cost of some high-tech drugs”.

The plan envisages appointing an additional 10 obstetricians and gynaecologists each year from 2017, along with more than 100 additional midwives each year.

The strategy was proposed in a report published into the death of Savita Halappanavar in University Hospital Galway three years ago.

As reported in The Irish Times last December, it envisages the current system of obstetrician-led services being replaced by a model of care where women would be seen by the most appropriate professional, based on their need.

In practice, this will entail midwife-led care for most women undergoing uncomplicated births. Each woman will be offered a choice about their care depending on the risk involved. “Normal-risk” mothers will be delivered by midwives in birthing centres outside of or alongside hospital maternity units, but may also choose care from an obstetrician. There will also be more home births.

Medium- and high-risk mothers will have their care led by an obstetrician and their babies will be delivered by obstetricians and midwives.

The strategy was drawn up by a 31-member steering group, whose formation last year was preceded by complaints by obstetricians who claimed midwives were over-represented on the group.

However, the 131-page report was agreed by all members of the group and the Institute of Obstetricians on Wednesday welcomed the strategy.

Greatest apology

Róisín Molloy, a member of the steering group and a parent whose son Mark died in Portlaoise, told the launch the greatest apology she and other parents could get was “to implement the strategy”.

“We need Ireland to be a safer place for mothers and babies. That’s what I believed in 2012, when I went to hospital to give birth to Mark. Unfortunately then, it wasn’t true; it was an aspiration, it was what people wanted to believe, and my son died.”

Another steering group member and parent who lost a child in Portlaoise, Shauna Keyes, said she was proud of the health service following publication of the strategy and surprised at the willingness of senior professionals to make the changes that were needed.