National Maternity Strategy: Funding for new elements halted

Money effectively going to abortion since January, says steering group member

The Health Service Executive  says the €4.1 million provided for the National Maternity Strategy  this year is the “existing level of service funding” needed to pay for posts approved in previous years. Photograph: Anthony Devlin/PA

The Health Service Executive says the €4.1 million provided for the National Maternity Strategy this year is the “existing level of service funding” needed to pay for posts approved in previous years. Photograph: Anthony Devlin/PA

 

Funding for new developments in the National Maternity Strategy has been halted, just three years after the plan was unveiled by then minister for health Leo Varadkar.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) says the €4.1 million being provided for the plan this year is the “existing level of service funding” needed to pay for posts approved in previous years.

There is no new development funding for the plan in 2019, a spokeswoman confirmed to The Irish Times.

The strategy, which aimed to develop quality, safe, consistent and well-resourced care in the State’s 19 maternity units, was developed in response to official recommendations following the death of Savita Halappanavar in a Galway hospital more than six years ago.

Maternity services have been the subject of scrutiny again since the death of Marie Downey and her son, Darragh, in a single room at Cork University Maternity Hospital (CUMH) last week. Two investigations have begun into the deaths of Ms Downey and her son, who were buried at the weekend.

Ringfenced funding

While progress has been made in some areas, many of the strategy’s 77 recommendations are ongoing or remain to be completed.

Patient representative Róisín Molloy, a member of the National Maternity Strategy steering group, criticised the loss of ringfenced funding for the plan. “It is ironic that we are cutting money that should go towards providing a safe maternity system when we are spending so much more on birth injury claims to the State Claims Agency,” she said.

Ms Molloy, whose baby, Mark, died as a result of failings at Portlaoise hospital in 2012, said the money that had been intended to go on the maternity strategy was effectively being spent on abortion services since January this year.

“The only way to prevent further deaths and injuries to others is to properly fund the maternity strategy and make public servants accountable for their actions,” she said.

Ten-year plan

Sinn Féin health spokeswoman Louise O’Reilly said the loss of ringfenced funding was “disappointing but not surprising”. “This job is far from complete,” she added.

The 2019 HSE service plan provides for spending of €12 million on termination of pregnancy services, split between hospitals and the community. No figure is given for spending on the maternity strategy.

The HSE said the strategy was a 10-year plan and funding to support its implementation would be introduced across its lifetime. Total funding allocated from 2015 to 2019 was €20 million.

The Department of Health insisted implementation of the strategy was continuing and it would “fundamentally change how maternity care is delivered in this country”.