Anomaly scans will not be ready in time for abortion roll out
It will be 2019 before all pregnant women are automatically offered an anomaly scan to find out if their baby has a fatal foetal abnormality, it emerged yesterday.
The long-awaited extension of the service is unlikely to be on time for the new abortion legislation, which is due to come into force in January and will allow women, whose baby has been diagnosed with this condition, to have a termination in this country.
The failure of all maternity hospitals to provide the 20-week scan as a routine means thousands of mothers-to-be are losing out.
It means a service to offer a termination to a woman carrying a child who has a fatal foetal abnormality will be in place although not all will be able to get a scan to secure the diagnosis.
Only seven of the 19 maternity hospitals provide the 20-week scan as a routine.
A partial service is provided in five others, where it is clinically indicated by a doctor but there is no anomaly scanning, according to the most recent survey.
The plan was to hire an additional 28 ultrasonographers, who deliver the scans, this year but it will be 2019 before full access is provided, according to the HSE's Kilian McGrane in a response to Sinn Féin spokeswoman on health Louise O'Reilly.
Obstetricians and GPs last week expressed concern that all supports would not be in place to make the extended abortion service "fit for purpose" by January.
The legislation governing the extended abortion law, on foot of the repeal of the Eighth Amendment, is due to go to Cabinet this week.
Once the legislation is passed it will be necessary to put in place regulations and this could lead to further delay.
The three-day pause from the time a request for a medical abortion is first made to the point where it takes place, is to remain. However, it is expected to be triggered from when a woman initially inquires about an abortion, including a call made to a phoneline that is due to be set up to provide advice and signal where a woman can go.
Dr John O'Brien, president of the Irish College of General Practitioners, said the nature of providing medical abortions will be time consuming. It is unlikely that it will fit in to the normal process of a standard GP consultation. The work is likely to cluster. It is not likely to be dispersed equally across all GPs, he said.