Seven mums died while in maternity hospitals last year
Published 14/10/2016 | 02:30
The number of mothers dying in maternity hospitals has remained static even as the total births continued to fall last year.
The figure of seven maternal deaths was the same as in 2014 - but overall these tragedies remain at a low level when compared to other countries, the HSE's annual statistical report on maternity services said.
But further evidence that the baby boom is over emerged as births continued to fall - down to 64,435 from 65,987.
The highest number of babies was born in the National Maternity Hospital which had more than 9,000 births.
And South Tipperary Hospital maternity unit had the lowest number of births.
The national perinatal mortality rate - deaths recorded at or around the time of birth - was 6.5 per 1,000 births, up from 6.1 per 1,000 births in 2014. This rate includes babies with birth defects.
The rate of caesarean section went up again for first-time mothers from 31pc to 32.3pc.
For mothers who already had children, the rate also rose from 28.6pc to 30pc. This is in line with previous years and has been linked to risk factors such as the growing number of older women given birth and obesity.
There was a slight fall in the numbers of women opting for pain-free epidurals but it was still significant at 40pc.
Complications such as ectopic pregnancy, where the baby develops outside the womb, rose slightly to 12.1pc of total mothers delivered.
Coombe obstetrician Prof Michael Turner, who leads the National Clinical Programme in Obstetrics & Gynaecology said the gathering of this information enabled "senior managers in hospitals to monitor and manage their activities."
Meanwhile, Phelim Quinn, the chief executive of Hiqa, the patient safety body said his inspectors had carried out a number of hospital and maternity unit investigations.
As a result of Hiqa's requirements, maternity units now all report monthly safety statements, he told the All-Ireland midwifery conference organised by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation.
"But there is still more to do; it is obvious that the length of time taken to investigate patient safety incidents is unacceptable; in some instances the process for their conduct remains ineffective and non-transparent," he said.
"In our investigations into critical incidents and service failure in Galway and Portlaoise we also sought the development of a code of conduct for employers and managers, legislation for the establishment of hospital groups and a patient advocacy service.
"Three years on, these key recommendations remain in development," he warned.
He said that earlier this week Hiqa had submitted new national standards for safer better maternity standards. He called on Health Minister Simon Harris to approve them and ensure they are implemented. "We need to ensure women are at the centre of what we deliver in maternity services," he added.