MOTHERS in a leading maternity hospital are giving birth in a "dangerously risky environment" due to health cuts, soaring numbers of births and a loss of experienced doctors and nurses.
Dr Sam Coulter Smith, master of the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin, has warned that several emergency patients are having to be dealt with at the one time, creating "significant clinical risk".
Writing in the hospital's annual report, he said a record 9,319 babies were born there last year against a background of budget constraints and a reduced number of staff.
"As the level of activity continues to increase, it is becoming more and more difficult to maintain the quality and standard of care the Rotunda is renowned for," he warned.
There were three maternal deaths at the hospital last year, including a 32-year-old woman who spoke no English and who was admitted to the emergency department when she was 30 weeks pregnant, complaining of feeling unwell.
The woman lost consciousness and a diagnosis of a blood clot to the lung was made. Staff had been making arrangements to transfer her to the Mater hospital when she collapsed.
She was brought to theatre in the Rotunda with severe bleeding before suffering cardiac arrest. She was transferred to the Mater where she suffered a second cardiac arrest and died.
Another 32-year-old woman suffered a fatal epileptic seizure and a third died from cancer 15 weeks into her pregnancy.
The report also recorded that 24 women suffered from obstetric haemorrhage, up from 10 in 2010.
The perinatal mortality rate – the death of an infant at or around the time of birth – was 3.5 per 1,000 births, the majority of whom had serious birth defects.
The rate of caesarean section rose to 29.5pc, a rise of 1.6pc, due to a range of factors ,including more women having twins and triplets.
It was also influenced by the number of women who has previous caesarean sections.
The induction of labour rate was 29pc, up from 20pc five years previously.
The rise is strongly linked to an increase in the numbers of pregnant women with diabetes.
The report noted a rise in demand for the Rotunda's psychiatric service and psychiatrist Dr John Sheehan saw 107 new patients, while reviewing 260 in outpatient clinics.
The number of pregnant girls aged under 17 rose to 124, the highest since 2007.
The hospital's sexual assault treatment unit saw 351 patients, a rise of 10 from the previous year. They ranged in age from 12 to 69. The report said 240 had consumed alcohol in the 12 hours prior to the assault. Forty of the patients were unsure if they had been assaulted due to the amount of alcohol they had drunk.
The hospital had a small outbreak of MRSA which affected four babies.
The report said the hospital remains vigilant and is continuing surveillance screening on all babies in the neonatal intensive care unit.