In defence of maternity services

 

A chara, – Jacky Jones writes that “A misogynistic culture pervades Ireland’s maternity services. A highly interventionist, disempowering model of maternity care still operates in all hospitals” (“Vindicating women’s rights does not lead to chaos”, Second Opinion, Health + Family, June 21st).

I have tried to pass over these recurring slurs on our maternity services but the time has come to respond. I am an obstetrician in the Irish maternity service and am proud to provide skilled, compassionate, woman-centred care on a daily basis, day and night, Monday to Sunday. I am joined by a workforce of dedicated midwives, obstetricians, anaesthetists, neonatologists, healthcare assistants, porters, receptionists, domestic staff, administrative staff, and others. The staff I work with are vocationally driven and do everything in their power to ensure that birth is a safe and joyful experience and that when adverse events occur women and their families are treated with respect and dignity. My experience of other maternity services within the country suggests that this approach is widespread.

Sometimes things go wrong in pregnancy and birth, and we grieve for the loss with our patients. Sometimes we get things wrong and we try to learn from these regretted outcomes, as individuals and as organisations. We are human and flawed – we do not always deal with things as well as we could or should, but to shame our entire service on a regular basis within the media serves no one.

The response to media outrage is to increase the very intervention rates that Jacky Jones is so ready to criticise us for. Take a look at the hospitals that have been publicly shamed for adverse outcomes and see what has happened to their Caesarean section rates – fear, criticism, and punitive actions result in unnecessary interventions provided under the guise of safety.

I would like Jacky Jones to offer a public apology to all the women and men like myself who provide safe, effective, women-centred maternity care to the people of Ireland. By all means pursue the cause of safe termination care for distressed women, but to lay the blame at the door of “misogynistic maternity services” is a step too far. – Yours, etc,

DEIRDRE J MURPHY, MD

Professor of Obstetrics,

Trinity College Dublin,

Coombe Women and

Infants University Hospital,

Dublin 8.