Portlaoise Hospital: Obstetric and Maternity Services


[Speaking in the Seanad during Order of Business]

I ask the Leaders to draw the attention of the Minister to the state of our obstetric services and the staffing levels in them and possibly to arrange a debate. The tragic loss of the parents in Portlaoise deserves our sympathy. As a parent, I cannot feel how awful it must be to lose a child and particularly to lose a child in the circumstances outlined.

I am very troubled by one of the central messages from the report of the Department of Health, namely, that there was no linkage between this tragic occurrence and a deficiency in staffing levels. Between 2000 and 2009, the population of the catchment area of Portlaoise hospital increased by 37%, mainly due to the development of satellite towns and quasi-suburban communities with a disproportionate number of young couples starting off in life. The number of births increased from 1,000 to 2,000. While the number of births nationally increased by 17%, the number in Portlaoise increased by 50%. The increase in the number of consultant obstetricians, which stood at a ludicrously low three, was zero. There were three at the beginning and three at the end of that period. The logic of the Department of Health is as follows. If there was no linkage between decreased staffing levels and these adverse outcomes, will the Department of Health and the Minister clarify whether the unit was overstaffed in 2000? I think that is an absurd contention.

I do not accept it is appropriate for trainee doctors to provide medical care in a country with the highest number of medical schools per head of population in the western world. What can we say about the numbers in Portlaoise? None of the doctors occupying trainee positions, such as registrars in the hospital, was part of the recognised national specialist registrar training schemes. During this time, there was a dramatic increase in the number of people hired as agency employees, as nurses and junior doctors and at other grades. One can say it shows the investment made in the service but I suggest it shows the opposite.

How can communications problems be labelled as a major issue, as it is in the report, without acknowledging that a rapidly rotating cohort of agency temporary staff fosters the very same problems of communications?

I am looking for a debate. One and a half years after the tragic events in Galway, the tragedy that lady and her family went through and after our handwringing and agonising last year about the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill, has one extra penny been invested in obstetric services and maternity services? The answer is “No”.

One Response to “Portlaoise Hospital: Obstetric and Maternity Services”
  1. Eire-“a country with the highest number of medical schools per head of population in the western world”

    Why do we need all these doctors?

    It shows that we must be a very sick society if we need so many “doctors”

    Communication is a massive issue and it is worth your while to research and learn why.

    If I know the answer as a mere service user, then how do you not know?

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