Sunday 23 October 2016

Anxious parents place faith in system - but hope now tinged with fear

Published 01/06/2016 | 02:30

The National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street. Photo: Damien Eagers
The National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street. Photo: Damien Eagers

There is no time in a woman's life when she feels more vulnerable than when she is in labour. Never does she feel more dependant on other people as when she must place her confidence in the little team around her.

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The suitcase containing the bundles of soft white clothes and tiny nappies is stashed away in anticipation in the hospital luggage room and the car seat on standby, waiting for that first magical journey home.

How agonising must the loss of an eagerly awaited baby or an expectant young mother be then, when the anxious parents have placed all their faith and hopes in the maternity services system?

It was this time last year that we learned of a major review of the maternity unit of Cavan General Hospital following the death of a newborn baby boy - the fourth infant to die at the hospital since 2012.

In 2014, the then minister James Reilly assured people: "There is a safe service in Cavan... but we wanted to be doubly reassured that there isn't more to be done in order to make the service even safer."

But no formal order was made to Hiqa to investigate the unit and no review was ever carried out.

Tragically, we have now learned of the deaths of two more tiny infants at Cavan General Hospital within the space of a week.

One baby died early on Sunday morning after problems had arisen during labour.

It is understood that an emergency Caesarean section was called for but the baby died before delivery.

Another baby died unexpectedly less than a day after being born and investigations into both deaths are under way.

But alarming occurrences within our maternity services are not confined to Cavan.

Yesterday, we learned that the National Maternity Hospital is investigating the death of a pregnant woman while undergoing emergency surgery for an ectopic pregnancy earlier this month.

Originally from Syria, Malak Kuzbary Thawley (34) was a teacher and was pregnant for the first time when she died at Holles Street on May 8.

She had been living and working in Ireland for the past three years alongside her husband, Alan, an American citizen.

Last year, AIMS, Ireland - the Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services - warned of "chronic and dangerous" understaffing of maternity units around the country.

Qualified midwives were choosing to emigrate to Australia, the UK and Canada because they knew they would be working in safer environments in which they could assist women giving birth, AIMS claimed.

Our crumbling health system was, along with housing, the key issue of the last General Election. The cuts to services continue to have dire consequences, affecting the lives and the health of the most vulnerable.

Along with countless others, they have hit the elderly, those with disabilities and special needs, children requiring speech and language services, labouring women and the tiny infant emerging from the womb.

Far from being reassured, there is now more than a tinge of fear surrounding our health service.

And as women pack their bags for the maternity hospital, such additional misgivings should be the last thing on their minds.

Irish Independent

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