Friday, March 7, 2014

Ireland's maternity hospitals dangerously understaffed

One of the results of the collapse in Ireland’s economy in 2008 has been a drastic reduction in hospital patient care due to a moratorium on recruitment and nowhere is it more evident that in maternity hospitals. Unless immediate steps are taken to rectify the situation Ireland's proud record of having one of the lowest levels of maternal mortality in the world will come to a tragic end.
According to a survey carried out by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation INMO mothers and babies are being put at risk in Ireland’s maternity units which are at breaking point as they struggle with a severe lack of midwives.
Worryingly the survey found that no maternity unit has the recommended safe ratio of midwives to births – and Portlaoise hospital, where four babies died over a six year period, is the worst hit.
According to an article in the Irish Independent on March 7th;
The moratorium on recruitment has led to a shortage of 621 midwives across the country, despite a predicted birth rate of nearly 69,000 this year.

The figures emerged in a survey by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), which described the shortage in several of the 19 hospitals as "critical".

The survey measured staffing levels against the internationally recommended ratio of one midwife to 29.5 births.

INMO president Claire Mahon warned: "It is quite clear that cuts in midwifery staffing has a direct consequence upon the standard of midwifery care available to mothers and babies."

It found the ratio in Irish hospitals varied from 1:39 in Holles St in Dublin to 1:55 in Portlaoise, which needs an additional 33 midwives. The overall national ratio is one midwife to 40 births.

Other units which are under strain include University Hospital Galway, where Savita Halappanavar died in 2012. It has a ratio of 1:41 births and needs another 32 midwives.

The maternity unit in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, which has been at the centre of major controversy in the last decade, has a ratio of 1:37 births.

"This level of understaffing is very disturbing in view of previous serious incidents which were the subject of external investigation along with pledges to implement a range of recommendations," said the report.

The ratio in Limerick Regional Hospital is 1:32 births and it is even higher in Cork University Hospital at 1:37. The Rotunda in Dublin has 188 midwives, but the ratio to births is 1:48. The report pointed out that the Coombe Maternity Hospital in Dublin, which has supplied staff to Portlaoise in the last week after the Midlands unit was deemed unsafe, is itself coping with a ratio of 1:40.

It points out that in Northern Ireland, where there were 25,269 births in 2012, there are 1,040 midwives, with a ratio of 1:24.