Pregnant women forced to sleep on trolleys outside empty ward
SIX pregnant women were forced to sleep on trolleys in a hospital corridor as maternity services were stretched to crisis point.
Health chiefs apologised to pregnant women attending St Luke's Hospital for Carlow-Kilkenny after they admitted some "had to be accommodated on a corridor in the maternity ward".
The Health Service Executive (HSE) said there was a "higher-than-usual demand" for services.
Shocked mothers who have just given birth in the hospital contacted the Irish Independent to highlight overcrowding in the maternity ward this week.
The situation reached breaking point on Tuesday night, when pregnant women had to sleep on trolleys outside the ward.
The women praised doctors, nurses and hospital staff for working in "cramped" conditions. However, they blasted the HSE for failing to ensure beds were available to expectant mothers.
Emma Byrne, who gave birth to baby Holly last week, said she was "disgusted" to see women on trolleys while a gynaecology ward was vacant next to the maternity room.
Ms Byrne said the hospital staff were doing a "fantastic job" but it was up to the health service to intervene.
"I'm disgusted by the way this country is run. I'm looking at six pregnant women forced to sleep on trolleys in the hospital corridor of St Luke's while the gynae ward beside us is closed and empty," she said.
"Another thing I noticed, which is really horrific, is that women who are miscarrying are left in the same room as mothers and babies because there's nowhere else to put them.
"I was in a big ward before I had Holly. There was a mix of people giving birth and waiting. One girl came but she was losing her baby.
"The nurse was completely heartbroken that she had to leave her in the ward with mothers and babies. If the gynae ward was open, she could have brought her there. It's really sad."
The HSE said it regretted "any inconvenience" for women attending St Luke's Hospital in Kilkenny city. They admitted that there was a swell in demand for maternity services in the hospital this week. Hospital management arranged for extra nurses and midwives to be drafted in on Wednesday to cope with the influx of mothers.
A HSE statement said that "additional temporary beds" were made available in the former gynae ward. Hospital management were forced to reopen the old ward to cater for the women.
"Regrettably, this space was not available on Tuesday due to essential bathroom maintenance works, which were completed this morning," the statement added.
As women who gave birth were routinely discharged on Wednesday, the situation returned to normal.
All women are currently in ward accommodation.
"As maternity care is a specialty service, antenatal/post natal women and their babies are always accommodated within the maternity ward and delivery suites and it is regrettable that for a period of time some women had to be accommodated on a corridor in the maternity ward," the statement added.
"The general manager at St Luke's Hospital for Carlow-Kilkenny wishes to assure all women that staff have been working particularly hard to meet the extra demand and are endeavouring to minimise any inconvenience that may be experienced during this very busy period."
Maternity services staff at St Luke's General Hospital for Carlow-Kilkenny delivered more than 2,200 babies in 2009.
The HSE said hospital data showed the number of births was "marginally higher" by the end of July this year compared to the same period last year.
The increase is only 0.8pc -- and is showing a 1.8pc decrease against expected births for 2010.
"The month of July has seen the highest number of births reported in any month in 2010 (6,395). However July to September tend to be the peak months for births each year," a spokesperson added.