40 births a day leave maternity hospital struggling to cope
THE number of babies delivered at the National Maternity Hospital exceeded 40 a day on three occasions last year.
Pressure faced by the hospital, which is struggling to cope in an outdated building in Holles Street in Dublin, is outlined in a report by the master, Dr Rhona Mahony.
The tiniest surviving baby last year was a girl born at 23 weeks who weighed only 440g (15.5oz).
Holles Street delivered 9,142 babies last year, making it one of the busiest maternity hospitals in Europe, though it is housed in a building that in part dates from the 18th Century.
The report comes in the wake of a recent announcement that the hospital will be relocated to a new building in the grounds of St Vincent's Hospital, which should be ready in five years.
Around €150m has been earmarked for the project, with construction due to begin in 2016.
Dr Mahony's report points out that the hospital's current volume of births exceeds large centres in London which are delivering an average of 5,000 to 6,000 babies each year.
It also says 109 babies were born weighing less than 3lbs 3oz, and 49 under 2lbs 3oz were admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit.
Twenty-five babies, including eight born in other maternity units, received "cooling" treatment to try to prevent death or brain damage.
This is given to babies starved of oxygen or blood to the brain. For every seven infants "cooled", one will avoid death or disability. The treatment has been described as a form of mild hypothermia and is believed to reduce the aftershocks of birth, giving the brain time to recover.
Cooling the baby to 33 to 34C improves the chances of survival and lowers the risk of cerebral palsy.
"The ability of this cooling treatment to avoid or minimise the devastating consequences of brain injury due to lack of oxygen to the brain is one of the most promising and exciting new treatments to emerge in neonatology in the past few years," says the report.
It also reveals that an increased number of women asked for a "domino birth", where they can go home a few hours after delivery, but the hospital was not able to oblige them all.
Meanwhile, the Holles Street's rate of babies born by caesarean section last year was 22.7pc, a slight increase on 2011 but "low by international standards".