More Resources to Ensure Best Maternity Care

[Speaking in the Seanad during Order of Business]

Turning to another issue which may be described as troubling, although that is too strong a word as one should never sound alarmist, this is a very safe country in which to have a child from the point of view of maternal mortality compared to other countries. It is not, as we have been told, the safest. I am afraid it is no longer in the top few. When dealing with maternal mortality, which is thankfully rare, statistical blips can come about. There can, sadly, be a bit of bad luck where two or three cases occur in one year and might not occur in another year. This has the effect of distorting the statistics. However, despite this, the record of this country in this area has been knocked down a couple of pegs from the place that we held. Maternal mortality is desperately rare, and when it occurs it is an unbelievable tragedy so we should always have zero tolerance for it.

In this regard – I apologise for sounding like a broken record – there is something seriously wrong when we have so few consultant-level obstetricians in the country in general. They are very unevenly spread and some of the hospitals are desperately low. In the entire western region of the HSE, there is perhaps the lowest number of obstetricians per head of population of any identifiable region in the OECD. Maybe not having enough doctors does not affect the maternal mortality rate and maybe it does. We certainly should not allow ourselves to be lulled into a false sense of complacency that we are in some kind of obstetrical nirvana where things do not go wrong. We have amazingly good midwives and nurses and incredibly well-trained obstetricians but we do not have enough of them. It is critically important that we look at this, perhaps in a debate in the House on maternity services.

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