Maternity hospital at 'absolute' limit for deliveries
The country's largest maternity hospital delivered 40 babies a day during its busiest peak last year.
The National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street, Dublin, had its busiest year ever in 2010, delivering 9,957 babies to 9,756 mothers and at one stage 20 babies were born in the space of just eight hours.
It comes against a background of a growing number of complex births at the hospital with nearly one in two mothers having their first baby.
Outgoing master Dr Michael Robson said he took the decision not to put a cap on the numbers of mothers admitted to the hospital because there was "no other place for these women to deliver".
Writing in the hospital's annual report he said: "The decision was not taken lightly and continues to be under constant review."
He warned that last year the hospital's capacity both in terms of the building and other resources had been stretched to its "absolute limits" and a decision about its future can wait no longer.
Figures from the Health Service Executive (HSE) show the hospital is slightly less busy this year with the numbers of patients, including those having gynaecological procedures, down 1.5pc.
Although it has been recommended that the hospital re-locate to a new building in the grounds of St Vincent's hospital no timetable has been given.
A shortage of capital funding means it is likely to be delayed indefinitely.
The hospital upgraded its houses in Mount Street and added more space during the year.
Dr Robson, who finishes his term as master at the end of this year, said 70 of the babies were either stillborn or died during the first seven days of life.
There were no maternal deaths and the caesarean section rate went up to 20.7pc, although it is still lower than in other hospitals.
There were 2,500 babies admitted to its neo-natal intensive care unit and it is seeing an increase in very low birth-weight infants. There were 156 babies who weighed under 1.5kg.
The hospital is having more women who have high-risk pregnancies referred to them which is leading to increased workload.
The report said that during the year there were no cases of MRSA blood stream infections but there were two cases of the C difficile bug and 15 flu infections.
The incidence of infection in the surgical site of women who had caesarean sections was 3.9pc.
Referring to ultrasound scans on pregnant women, the report said most are done at 13 weeks and again between 20 and 22 weeks. In an ideal situation all patients should be offered a scan in the first and second three months of the pregnancy, in line with emerging European practice, it added.
Even if resources allowed there is a chronic shortage of suitably trained personnel to carry out the work. The hospital received HSE funding of €48m and generated an income of €18.5m, an increase of 4.2pc on the previous year.