Minister criticised for big gaps in abortion services
Major gaps in hospital-based abortion services have been highlighted in several parts of the country, six months after the law on terminations was liberalised.
It means women are facing long journeys depending on where they live.
Doctors at St Luke's Hospital in Kilkenny wrote to GPs last week saying its four obstetricians "decided unanimously that the hospital is not an appropriate location for medical or surgical terminations".
"We are having difficulties which centre around not only the issues of conscientious objection but also facilities," said consultant obstetrician Professor Ray O'Sullivan.
"A lot of people don't realise that we in Kilkenny don't have a gynaecology ward, for example.
"So finding an appropriate location for women with crisis pregnancies, or who are requiring surgical terminations, would be very difficult," he added.
Just 10 of the 19 maternity units are providing full abortion services, the HSE confirmed.
It said that €12m was allocated for the service this year but was unable to elaborate on how it is distributed.
The HSE could not say why only 10 hospitals are still fully participating. It said "work is ongoing".
Dr Cliona Loughnane, women's health co-ordinator at the National Women's Council of Ireland, said that "women require access to safe and local abortion services".
"The health services must urgently clarify how they will ensure abortion services are provided across all of the country's maternity units," she said.
It has now been decided to appoint an additional obstetrician in Kilkenny to facilitate abortion.
Separately, the hospital is considering a report into allegations that a number of women had exploratory gynaecological procedures in the hospital without their consent.
A systems analysis report has been completed.
The process is expected to take another month.