MATERNITY services normally exist under the radar as far as headlines are concerned.
Occasionally, the masters of the main hospitals warn about patient risks due to staffing and old buildings – but we are mostly told Ireland is one of the safest places in the world to have a baby.
Ireland excels when it comes to the European birth rate and remains at the top of the league, although there is evidence the boom is waning.
But now patient safety watchdog HIQA has called for a review of maternity services as a priority.
As main investigator Phelim Quinn said, the anecdotal evidence is that adverse events happen relatively infrequently.
But he also says there is a worrying lack of information on what quality of care, outcomes and standards they have in place.
A glaring deficit is the lack of a national guideline on the management of infection, which can grip a patient such as the late Savita Halappanavar and become life-threatening.
There are other deficits too, such as the failure of maternity units to measure how long it takes to transfer a critically ill pregnant woman to intensive care.
There are no systems in place to capture real-time information on emerging infection threats. Given that there are only 19 maternity units, including the main Dublin hospitals in the country, a review should be done swiftly.
The worry is not so much about reported accidents and risks but rather the lack of published data from so many units to show what systems they have in place to avoid them.
The failure of eight of the 19 maternity units to even produce any annual report has gone without comment until now.
It takes the expert analysis of HIQA to shine a light on how potentially dangerous this is. This report is a timely one with the Budget less than a week away.