Maternity services in Ireland under pressure for years?

 Here is a column I wrote in 2010 ago now for my Consumer Matters column in the Daily Star.  In light of the findings of the HIQUA report on Portlaoise I think it’s timely to post again.

“Expectant Mums continue to pay between 2500 and 5000 euro for private care in the expectation that it will mean better choice, control and continuity of care and a safer birth. Inadequate information means that many private patients are unaware of free, grant-aided or much less expensive alternative schemes capable of meeting their needs, in some cases much better than private care. As an ex-nurse with experience of working in UK maternity wards and as a mother of 3 children delivered privately in Ireland, I can attest to the fact that instead of choice and participation the experience of childbirth can be frighteningly passive and nothing short of archaic. In a maternity system which will deliver over 75,000 babies this year, public or private, you are little more a unit of production, ideally delivering within 12 hours.

Depending on where you live, more options are available.  Ireland has only 2 midwife led units, based in Cavan general hospital and Our Lady of Lourdes in Drogheda. This free service includes delivery in a homely environment, with a familiar mid-wife and a choice of facilities from waterpools to bean bags.  Early discharge is encouraged with follow up visits from your midwife.

Holles Street, the Rotunda, Waterford and Wexford hospitals all provide community home birth schemes.  Free of charge, a team of midwives provide antenatal care in the community and sometimes at home. The birth itself may happen either at home or in the hospital.

If you don’t have access to any of the services listed you have the option of a self-employed community midwife(SECM). They are partially funded to the tune of €2,400 by the HSE. Your  SECM may charge more for travel or any additional services. VHI, Quinn Health, Vivas all give grants towards the cost of homebirths. Ensure that you register with your local maternity hospital in case you or your baby need to transfer in.

Ireland is the 6th safest country in the world in which to have a baby.  However, safety shouldn’t come at the expense of a positive, active pregnancy and birth.  A recent HSE commissioned review of Ireland’s two midwife led units in Drogheda and Cavan hospitals reported that outcomes were as good as consultant led services and Mums were much happier too