Monday 24 November 2014

Exhausted doctors, midwives ‘work in fear of legal claims’

By Clodagh Sheehy

Published 30/07/2014 | 12:11

Master of the National Maternity Hospital Dr. Rhona Mahony
Master of the National Maternity Hospital Dr. Rhona Mahony.

DOCTORS and midwives at the National Maternity Hospital are working in a climate of fear because of spiralling legal claims, its master Dr Rhona Mahony has said.

In her latest annual report, Dr Mahony said: “It is interesting that at a time when our outcomes have never been better, litigation is spiralling.

“Our current culture is one of blame, litigation and punishment.

“Staff are used to exhaustion, frustration and stress, but the fear is new and fear is a dangerous emotion. It paralyses and diminishes.

“Patient expectation is high and yet public confidence is consistently undermined.”

Dr Mahony pointed out that despite “lots of minor altercations with powers-that-be”, the Holles Street hospital had “achieved more than ever last year”, with 9,000 births.

One of the biggest difficulties was that staff were “overexposed” to the high number and complexity of patient cases.

This meant that the doctors and midwives “find themselves in an extraordinarily punitive environment of High Court, Medical Council, Coroners Court, An Bord Altranais and increasingly, the media”, Dr Mahony said.

Meanwhile, a ground-breaking test to diagnose pre-eclampsia in pregnant women is being developed by a team of Irish scientists.

REVOLUTIONISE

They have signed a deal with the internationally-renowned Mayo Clinic in the US for the simple urine test that could revolutionise pre-natal care.

Inform Bioscience’s innovation can detect pre-eclampsia at 26 weeks.

Chief executive Charles Garvey hopes the new technology will be ready for the market within 18 months.

“At the moment, doctors don’t have any way of identifying women who have pre-eclampsia until the symptoms begin to manifest,” he said.

“That’s okay if they come on slowly, but sometimes a woman can feel fine and healthy in the morning and by that evening she’s in intensive care and her baby is delivered, ready or not.”

Mild pre-eclampsia can affect up to 10pc of first-time pregnancies while the more severe condition can affect up to 2pc of all pregnancies.

High blood pressure, protein in the woman’s urine and fluid retention are indications of the potentially fatal condition which can lead to seizure, stroke and coma.

Pre-eclampsia kills up to 80,000 women and 500,000 infants worldwide each year.

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