ONE of the country's busiest maternity hospitals struggled to cope with a bumper crop of post-Christmas births with 22 babies born in the space of just 12 hours.
The Rotunda Hospital in Dublin experienced a mini baby boom on St Stephen's Day and a level of activity that was "unsustainable" due to the physical limitations of the outdated building, warned master Dr Sam Coulter-Smith.
Earlier last year, the hospital had 42 deliveries in the space of 24 hours, Dr Coulter-Smith told a service in St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, to mark the tercentenary of the hospital's founder, Bartholomew Mosse.
"That level of activity is simply unsustainable when patient safety and quality of healthcare must be paramount," he said.
Dr Coulter-Smith said state investment in Irish healthcare, particularly in maternity services in Dublin, was below that of other countries "and this was contributing to an overload and overcrowding in hospitals".
Many parts of the Rotunda Hospital where care is provided to women and babies are not fit for purpose, using cramped facilities with old Nightingale wards holding up to 10 beds or more at a time.
Many women are having to attend the hospital for pregnancy care that should be provided in the community.
"The Rotunda's emergency room handles 25,000 women with pregnancy complications every year. That's busier than many casualty departments around the country.
"We look after about 10,500 maternity patients a year. We've just completed two of the busiest years in the history of the hospital, with record numbers of deliveries in 2011."
Dr Coulter-Smith said the best option was to co-locate the Rotunda with the Mater Hospital, which is also in the north inner city.
"Over the years, we've developed a strong network of clinical and operational links with our close neighbour and partner, the Mater Hospital," he added.