Liberalising law on terminations 'will affect surgery waiting lists in maternity units'
Widening the grounds for abortion will have implications for maternity services and may affect waiting lists for gynaecological surgery.
Senior obstetricians and health officials said the liberalising of the law in abortion would lead to a demand for more surgical terminations.
They were before the Oireachtas health committee to discuss the national maternity strategy.
Under proposals which may follow any repeal of the Eighth Amendment, abortion would be allowed in advanced pregnancy in cases of fatal foetal abnormality and risk to the health of the mother.
Dr Peter McKenna, clinical director of the HSE's Women and Infant's programme, said the majority of abortions would be non-surgical and medical terminations involving medication. However, around 40pc of terminations would have surgical input - and this will have resource implications.
Dr Peter Boylan, chairman of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, warned that waiting lists for women in need of surgery for benign gynaecology procedures are still far too long.
He told the committee: "Benign gynaecology gets no mention in the national maternity strategy and this is a serious deficiency which needs to be addressed."
The lack of medical staff in maternity services was also a cause of "serious concern", he added.
"It is well known that many consultant jobs are so unattractive that no applications are received. This is a major change from a decade ago and requires urgent and realistic action by the State."
Phil Ni Sheaghdha, general secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, revealed there are now fewer midwives employed in maternity services than a year ago.
In December 2016 there were 1,461 midwives employed, but this had fallen to 1,445 last December.
"There were 63 midwives recruited during this period, but the numbers leaving outpace recruitment significantly," she said.
Training places for midwives in undergraduate and postgraduate courses are not fully filled.
The meeting was also told that not all pregnant women still have access to a 20-week anomaly scan. It is available to all patients in seven units and carried out on women where clinically indicated in seven others. But there is direct access these scans in five units.
Ring-fenced funding is now being invested this year in a bid to get more trained staff to provide the scans.