Saturday 23 June 2018

Holles Street boss: 'Working in 'toxic' health service is exhausting'

Dr Rhona Mahony, Master of the National Maternity Hospital, at the Labour think-in. Photo: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall
Dr Rhona Mahony, Master of the National Maternity Hospital, at the Labour think-in. Photo: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall
John Downing

John Downing

Ireland's best known maternity doctor, Dr Rhona Mahony, has admitted that she is "often exhausted going to work".

The Master of the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin, where 25 babies are born each day, has confessed she is weary of the "bureaucratic churn" which makes it extremely difficult for health care professionals to work.

The outspoken doctor said: "The Irish health system is a toxic place to work … six years in, I'm exhausted I really am."

But she also stressed that she loves her daily work and finds that there is too much despondency around the Irish health care system where very many good things happen each day.

Speaking to Labour Party TDs and senators, she said the "Irish health system" was a historical accident built up over 300 years.

She said efforts to restructure and streamline it would take a generation - but reforms must continue.

Dr Mahony also said it was time to remove a Constitutional ban on abortion for women whose health was at risk.

"We cannot keep sending women to England and pretending it doesn't happen," Dr Mahony told Labour's pre-Dáil conference in Athy, Co Kildare.

Her comments come as a new debate opens on a planned referendum on the vexed issue, perhaps as early as next year.

Later, Dr Mahony told reporters she favoured repealing the 1983 Constitutional ban on abortion, the so-called Eighth Amendment, for a number of key reasons.

She said the provision put women's health at serious risk - because an abortion was only possible where the mother's life was at risk.


"We are making decisions based on risk, trying to quantify risk. And in certain conditions we have to wait until a woman is sick enough before she qualifies for substantial risk to her life. And to me, to some extent, that is medical roulette," Dr Mahony said. "The law deals with right - medicine deals with risk," she added.

Dr Mahony said she favoured pregnancy termination in cases of fatal foetal abnormality and in cases of ectopic pregnancies and other non-viable pregnancies.

But she stressed the parents' decision was paramount - some wanted just one hour with a baby and that was their right.

Ms Mahony said she was unhappy with her patients travelling to Britain for abortions.

She said the current law did not allow her to care for them once they chose that option and travel of itself was stressful and risky.

The 2013 Protection of Life in Pregnancy Act had helped things. But it was very restrictive as it provided only for the "X-case".

The Master of the maternity hospital, which delivers thousands of babies a year, also said there were too many hospitals in Ireland, with 49 acute hospitals in a population of 4.7 million people.

Each of these acute hospitals is performing four different functions, emergency, acute care, general practice and elderly care.

This means many hospitals actually have a shortage of acute beds and the use of resources is inefficient.

"I think we need to have more efficient hospitals and a campus system of care," she said.

Dr Mahony said the most neglected aspect of the health system was education.

She added that a person's good health frequently depended on their level of education.

She said that she looked forward to taking a more active role in this field in the coming years.

Irish Independent

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